“Smaller electric cars will be needed to make them affordable”, Mikaël Le Mouëllic (BCG)

LA TRIBUNE.- In the context of strong economic uncertainties and taking into account the future reality of the market, how can we design the car of tomorrow so that it is still competitive while being decarbonized?

MICHAEL LE MOUËLLIC.- Competition is an entire industry battle that tells the story of the car very well. How to build cars, this extremely complex object, affordably? Indeed, the context implies that this story is not over, but rather will cause great difficulties. Just take the transition from a thermal car to an electric car. Accumulators mean an additional cost of 5,000 euros per vehicle. The challenge is obviously industrialization, but it is also the transition to a new generation of electric vehicles that optimize and improve performance each time, but also cost more. Over the past two years, we’ve seen a new generation of electric cars hit the market, which have nothing to do with what came before. Therefore, we can legitimately expect new quality leaps until 2030. One of the levers of this programmed improvement is obviously the reduction in the cost of batteries due to technological maturity. But to be even more competitive, the car needs to be modified. For example, the dimensions of cars, especially for the city, are being considered. Is there a need for SUVs where a compact sedan, or even a city car, meets the vast majority of uses? It is accepted that the lighter the car, the more efficient it is in terms of autonomy and carbon footprint.

More and more experts are interested in the true environmental benefits of electric cars…

The transition to electric cars will significantly reduce polluting emissions. Admittedly, this is more plausible in France, where the energy mix is ​​more decarbonized thanks to nuclear power than elsewhere. An electric car is estimated to be less polluting than a thermal car over a range of 12,000 to 25,000 kilometers. In terms of production conditions, but also in terms of raw material research, we must look to the future so that innovation can drastically reduce our carbon footprint. As manufacturers increasingly invest in the circular economy to recover material, new technologies must provide new materials.

But this transformation is expensive in terms of investment… Car prices continue to rise…

The challenge is the speed and maturity of all these technologies. Based on this speed, it will be possible to lower the prices of cars. But tailoring products to use cases is also a lever to meet demand. Going back to the weight of the car thing, but it seems that the heavier the car, the more it will cost. Automakers can’t escape this thought on vehicle dimensions. For now, they use significant tools to model the performance of electric cars against that of a thermal car. It does not meet the conditions of use and is too expensive. The battery weight ratio between a car and a multi-purpose vehicle is mainly 1 to 3 for urban use. For long journeys, it would be more appropriate to meet the needs through an ecosystem of mobility services such as rental.

The price of energy has increased since the beginning of the year. There is even talk of “full”, which is more expensive than diesel (at fast charging stations). It’s a new parameter in the electric car equation, and we’re told there’s a lower cost-in-use…

The electric car has become the most competitive segment in its entire life cycle since the beginning of this year. Yes, the cost of energy has increased dramatically since then, but the impact varies depending on the use case. Because the answer lies in the modulation of hourly rates. One of the main problems with electricity generation is the highly polarized demand during the day. Therefore, there are off-peak prices that allow you to limit the impact of price increases. While not everyone can charge during these times, it can help balance demand. Regardless, it is necessary to develop an ecosystem and an infrastructure of charging stations that provide access to electricity at a good price for both operators and drivers.