If you’re tuned into the latest in automotive news, it’s clear that the way consumers purchase, use, and think about cars is in a transitional period. In the first quarter of 2016, global electric vehicle sales increased a staggering 42%. Tesla received an unprecedented 373,000 pre-orders just for announcing the Model 3, their first entry-level offering.
Consumers have had a long, abusive relationship with the gas pump, they are looking for a way out, and companies outside the auto industry have taken notice. Apple, Google, and Dyson are all working on an electric car, and Bosch, a well established parts supplier, is preparing to support the influx of new EVs on the road with charging stations and EV-specific components and replacement parts. Here is our run-down of the key players to watch as the serious shift toward electric vehicles gains momentum.
Apple is well-known for their cutting edge technology, with a slightly obsessive focus on design and usability. Little is known about their car project, other than the fact there is quite a large team of engineers working on it. One thing we can be almost sure of is that it will integrate deeply with other Apple devices, and it won’t look like anything else on the market.
Google’s car project is far less secretive. They have developed viable self-driving cars, and are currently offering Arizona drivers $20 an hour to test them. The technology is currently being tested both in Google’s own prototype car and modified Lexus SUVs. The biggest question that remains is exactly how will this technology be offered to consumers. As a feature in existing cars? Will buyers actually be able to go to a Google dealership? Or will fleets of them serve metro areas so drivers can order a car to their location with a few button presses, sort of like Uber without the driver? Perhaps a combination of all three?
Perhaps the most unexpected company in our list, Dyson is taking a major departure from its bread and butter of bagless vacuum cleaners and bladeless fans, and working on an all-electric vehicle. Not much information is available on what sort of car it will be, but they have secured a $250 million grant from the British government to subsidize the research, and they have been sending headhunters to car companies and F1 teams to find engineering and aerodynamic talent.
If you go outside and open your hood right now, you are all but guaranteed to find at least one part with a little “Bosch” stamp on it. A long time supplier of automotive parts, both to manufacturers and directly to consumers, Bosch isn’t about to miss out on the new EV market. They already offer home charging stations for EVs, and are developing a more efficient battery and their own mild hybrid system. They are also developing their own autonomous driving technology and many of the sensors required for a self-driving system.