How Telematics Will Drive the Uptake of Electric Vehicles.

How Telematics Will Drive the Uptake of Electric Vehicles.

The majority of EVs scheduled to hit the market in 2010 are so-called city electric vehicles; that is, EVs with a range of less than 100 miles. Drivers of such vehicles will have to cope with a new challenge on the road: making the most of their limited electric mileage. These new challenges have sparked interest in the telematics sector. Frost & Sullivan, the global growth partnership company whose Automotive & Transportation Group works with many leaders in the sector, recently hosted an online briefing about telematics and the electric car. More than a hundred manufacturers, suppliers, and charging infrastructure providers attended. “The major impetus was to highlight the importance of telematics in giving an overall enjoyable and anxiety-free EV ownership experience for drivers,” says N. Praveen Chandrasekar, global program manager of Frost & Sullivan's Automotive & Transportation Group.

Some manufacturers have already made headway. Nissan has created a sophisticated IT system for its new LEAF, due out in the coming year. The system provides the driver with information about the state of charge, the distance that can be covered with the charge remaining, the location of the next charging station, the distance and directions to reach that station, and the availability and booking of that charging station.

Likewise, Renault has partnered with Better Place to create intelligent navigation for the Fluence EV, which will trundle off the factory line in 2010. Better Place’s in-car software notifies drivers of green routes, real-time traffic information, and dynamic route guidance with immediate re-routing features.

REVA, the EV company based in Bangalore, India, has rolled out the new REVive technology, which allows drivers who have run low on—or are out of—charge to activate a battery reserve. Drivers simply have to call or text the REVA call center, and a few minutes later ‘REVive’ will pop up on their digital display, accompanied by a distance-to-empty gauge that displays the additional amount of range available. “Telematics technology in EVs will enhance the ownership experience of these cars, hence enabling better adoption rates,” says R Chandramouli, president of sales and marketing at REVA. “We envisage telematics to be a critical technology that will remove many obstacles towards widespread adoption of EVs.” REVive technology will be available on all new models to be launched by REVA, including the REVA NXR in 2010 and the REVA NXG in 2011.

In each of these cases—REVive, Renault’s intelligent navigation, and the LEAF’s IT system—telematics features will be standardized parts of the car, rather than bonus features to which new owners can opt in. Frost & Sullivan projects this to be one of the critical differences between the telematics market for EVs and conventional vehicles. Only a few car companies, like Mercedes-Benz with its new mbrace feature and GM with its OnStar service, a standard feature in 95 percent of its vehicles, have attempted to standardize telematics in a similar way.

“Telematics will be crucial for EV's, the hardware of which will be a standard feature built into the cost of the vehicle, and services will be bundled with the lease plan drivers are going to opt for for battery and energy subscriptions,” says Chandrasekar. He projects that telematics will be available in 80 percent of EVs sold in Europe, North America, and Asia in the years ahead. “Loads of factors—namely, new concepts like battery swapping, incentives and tax rebates from local governments, and new business models like leasing the battery—will make sure EVs get better uptake by the period 2015 to 2020,” he says.

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