Threats and Opportunities for Tesla

Image result for teslaA new era for cars

It is the golden boy of the car industry. Feared by many old school thinkers, embraced by enthusiast early adopters, Tesla stands out from the crowd. Its eye-catchy silhouette doesn’t go unnoticed. The electric engine is silent and the batteries hide smartly under the car. The whole vehicle is one big toy, but what a toy! It is the top electric car in the world, not because of its performance, but because of the ecosystem build around it. By the way, it ranks number 1 because of its performance.  It outpaces all its rivals, in many ways. Everything looks great and the future of Tesla is bright. Or is it ?

Image result for tesla superchargerThe leader should never sleep

The greatest feature of Tesla is of course the autonomy of the car. Who would have thought an electric car could be so successful in Scandinavia ? And yet, there are more chances of seeing a Tesla in Oslo than in San Francisco. It’s  the law of the numbers.

Let’s go back to the strength of the car: the battery.  It powers the engine. It is the heart of Tesla and part of the ecosystem that starts to conquer the world: the Tesla superchargers. It is a dream for every electric car owner.

The competition awakens

The batteries are an important part of every electric car, today. They are heavy, account  for one third of the total car’s weight. They are a significant part of car’s  price. And yes, they need to be recharged often. Very often, in case of long trips. This is where competition comes with an alternative: the induction roads.

Image result for induction coilIt is physics 101: build a lane with powerful magnets underneath, have a car moving in that lane, add to that car a special component (called induction coil) and voilà: the car is  powered by magic, or so it seems. Of course, today, the whole process is far from being efficient. The yield is very low, but it is an alternative to the batteries and the limit they set. It looks impracticable today, but so was Tesla 10-15 years ago: a dream in the mind of one man. Those who laughed in early 2000s are silent by now. The process could repeat itself and the induction road could see the day.

The projects

Image result for induction roadTesla is aware of the induction road technology. The car manufacturer has even added an upgrade to the Model S, in order to provide wireless charging to the car. It is an improved supercharging technology, different from the induction road.

On the other hand, the overall  cost of deploying induction lanes at national level is orders of magnitude  bigger than that of the superchargers. As the  wireless vehicle charging  movement started back in the early 2010s, several  projects have been ignited, through partnerships between universities and private companies.

South-Korea (2013)

The small Asian country is a technological powerhouse. While most people associate South-Korea with  mobile phones and oil rigs, there are new fields to be explored. The city of Gumi and KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) have been testing an electric  bus powered by the magnets under the road (project OLEV). More exactly, the batteries of the bus are charging continuously.  It is the first project of its kind, but not the last one. As of today, the OLEV is a regular shuttle.

USA (2013)

Clemson University is testing the wireless vehicle charging. The goal of the project is to have  downsized batteries, while improving two key parameters of the car: cost and range. One of the biggest sponsors of the project is Toyota, the pioneer of hybrid cars.

UK (2015)

Highways England has been testing since 2015 an induction road lane able to  power cars.

All these projects are still in the incipient phase.  The industrialization of the technology will take many years and most likely not before 2025.

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