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Kal Gyimesi IBMby Kal Gyimesi, Automotive Leader IBM Institute for Business Value

Electric Vehicles (EVs) have been around since the beginning of the twentieth century. However, it isn’t until now we are beginning to truly realize the potential that EVs are ready to offer.  Green transportation aside, this next generation of EVs will lead the way from intelligent driving to proactive servicing and remote vehicle access, safety and convenience. They provide a connected experience that today’s digital consumers crave.

Today only about five percent of vehicles are Internet connected, but every electric vehicle that hits the market in the future will tout its connectivity as a differentiating feature.  Automakers are and will continue to focus on engaging the consumer by providing drivers with the capability to interact with their EVs remotely and offering ongoing “information availability.”

Inside the vehicle, EVs will reintroduce integrated navigation, an option that was previously difficult to sell in conventional cars.  Drivers may want to route themselves a variety of different ways, including in the manner that conserves the most battery power.  EV users will not only want to know how much charge they have left, but also how far away the nearest charging station is and be alerted if they go too far.

Outside the vehicle, apps such as the IBM EKZ smartphone applications are already being introduced that will help EV owners remotely monitor the charge status of vehicles, manage their charging schedule from their phone and always know where the nearest station is.  Many EVs will also be coupled with roof-top solar panels.  While solar won’t generate enough power to run the vehicle, EV owners will be able to remotely operate a fan to cool off the car before getting in on a hot day.  And new apps will keep coming…this is only the beginning.

In capitalizing on the extensive connectivity inherent to electric vehicles, automakers can bring a unique “connected driving” experience to consumers who are adopting new technology at breakneck speeds. Consumers can look forward to new ways to interact with vehicles, as well as the security that comes from greater information sharing with automakers through this new platform.

The connectivity is fun, but how can it spawn new business models?

Survey after survey shows that most people, even those in rural areas, drive about forty miles per day.  Seventy percent of consumers want more than a hundred miles on a charge from electric vehicles.  Fifty percent want more than two hundred.  This is a difficult goal and one that the industry will have trouble reaching and conveying to consumers.

Automakers should couple the purchase of an EV with flexible access to other conventional vehicles in the automakers portfolio.  For example, if you’re heading out on a long road trip, you can tap your automaker for a discounted rental rate on a gasoline vehicle; yet take advantage of a clean electric drive for your everyday usage

Automakers are also increasingly offering customizable electronics within vehicles.  Everything from the layout of the dash, to music content, navigation, calendar and even interior adjustments such as seating preferences, are driven by electronics and will be personalized.   The goal is to be able to take these setting with you as you move to different vehicles.

If automakers think about the new business models inspired by connectivity, then the electronic interchangeability of vehicles can open EVs to a much broader audience.  By enabling a single login persona across their vehicle portfolio, auto companies can help drivers take the comfortable interior environment from their everyday EV straight to the rest of their portfolio that is used for the occasional longer trip.

Digital cars enable new thinking, new perceptions and new ways to do business – all of which can put consumers in the driver’s seat as the world shifts to electric vehicles.

Today, IBM is unveiling a report, based on interviews with 125 executives from leading and emerging automotive companies and 1,716 U.S. drivers, which details the various factors that will contribute to the mass adoption of EVs – infrastructure readiness, smart technologies, new business models and consumer motivation. Check it out here.

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