Over the last 20 years, there has been a major increase in the number of electric vehicles on the roads and a significant increase in the number of electric car manufacturers around the world. While many of these companies have relationships with traditional vehicle manufacturers, there are number of standalone operations which are making a name for themselves in this new up-and-coming sector. We will now attempt to highlight the major players in the world might electric vehicle market and give some background to these companies and the services which they offer.
For many people, Tesla Motors is perhaps the epitome of the electric vehicle market, with a company that has literally grown from nothing to become one of the best-known electric car manufacturers in the world. Such is the technology which Tesla incorporates into its vehicles that for many people the performance of a Tesla electric car is indistinguishable from that of a more traditional petrol powered vehicle. It is amazing to think that Tesla Motors was only incorporated back in July 2003, with relatively small funding and just one prototype electric car in the pipeline. It soon became apparent there was significant demand for higher-end and higher cost sports vehicles powered by revolutionary batteries. The company has since attracted investment from Sergey Brin and Larry Page company founders of Google, Jeff Skoll the former president of eBay and a whole host of other well known investors. Private financing has now topped USD100 million and the company is going from strength to strength.
Global Electric Motorcars (GEM)
The history of GEM can be directly traced back to 1992, when a team of ex-General Motors engineers decided to pursue their dream of entering the electric car market with a company originally called Trans2. After it became apparent that the electric vehicle market was indeed an area of potential growth in the future, the company was acquired by a group of investors and renamed Global Electric Motorcars (GEM). During 1998 the company introduced a number of new electric vehicles to the market and indeed begun to make a good name for itself which then attracted the interest of Daimler Chrysler Corp. which bought the company outright in December 2000.
With significant financial backing from a large parent company GEM went from strength to strength and a number of new initiatives were introduced, new technologies pursued and ultimately the company began to make a name for itself in the neighbourhood electric vehicle market which predominantly covered short journeys on roads with speed limits under 35 mph. The company has gone from strength to strength under the Chrysler name and indeed a number of worldwide electric car manufacturers have come forward to partner the operation in the future.
REVA electric car company
The REVA electric car company was initially set up back in 1994 as a joint venture between Maini Group of India and a number of U.S. venture capital investors. This was a time when electric vehicles were very much in their infancy and were not in receipt of worldwide acceptance by consumers. However, very quickly it became apparent that REVA had the expertise, the backing and the business plan going forward to make a real impact on the electric car market.
The company has since introduced some of the best selling electric vehicles in the world and, even though the company has yet to make a profit, Mahindra and Mahindra, India's largest sports utility vehicle and tractor manufacturer, agreed to take a majority 55.2% stake in the business in May 2010. It is believed that many of the original U.S. investors bailed out at this point with a significant profit with the business rumoured to have been valued at around USD100 million.
While the deal with Mahindra and Mahindra may result in a change in the group of partners involved with REVA, this is a company which has massive backing and which can actually take REVA to the next level. The Indian automotive market is enormous but REVA has managed to crack the worldwide electric market with the vast majority of income reinvested to push the technology and the company further forward in an attempt to stay ahead of competitors.
If there is one company in the electric car market which has attracted more controversy than any other it has to be General Motors and the first major electric car to hit the market which was the General Motors EV1. Thousands of words have been written about the General Motors EV1 and the fact that this was the first mass market concept car to attract the attention of consumers in the U.S., and even around the world. The vehicle was unveiled in 1990 at the Los Angeles auto show and came into production in 1996 available through a small number of dealers in states such as California, Arizona and Georgia. However, what happened next has perplexed and puzzled analysts for many years and grabbed many unwelcome headlines for General Motors!
Using a rather bizarre sales method the General Motors EV1 was only leased to individuals rather than sold, therefore General Motors always retained ownership of every General Motors EV1 which was ever manufactured. Despite the fact this new concept car was proving very popular the company decided to cease manufacturing the General Motors EV1 in 1999 and when the lease on vehicles which had already been sold expired General Motors did not allow lessors to acquire these vehicles and instead brought them all back "in-house".
Conspiracy theories have followed the General Motors EV1 for many years with allegations of political pressure as well as pressure from the oil companies which begun to see electric vehicles as a potential threat to their future income. However, General Motors has now re-entered the electric car market under a more traditional banner and has managed to shake off the earlier controversy to become a well-known name in the industry.
If there is one vehicle which seems to reflect the growing demand and growing popularity of electric vehicles it has to be the Toyota Prius, which is one of the best-selling hybrid electric vehicles of all time. While the first-ever Toyota Prius went on sale in Japan in 1997 and was rolled out around the world in early 2000 this is a concept car which was first discussed back in 1992 with the first prototype available in 1994. Due to the fact this is one of the earliest hybrid vehicles available to the mass market it underwent significant test driving, adjustments and efficiency testing before being introduced to the worldwide market.
The Prius gave Toyota a significant foothold in the hybrid vehicle market which the company has used to go from strength to strength in this growing industry. However, there is no doubt that the Toyota Prius, which has been updated and revamped on a regular basis, is still the company's most popular hybrid option and proving evermore popular around the world. Many people see hybrid vehicles as a halfway house between electric powered cars and traditional petrol powered cars which has in many ways made them more acceptable to the general driving public. The enormous improvement in electric vehicles and hybrid vehicle technology is evident in the marketplace today and yet again many people will be unaware of the difference in driving experience between a hybrid vehicle and a traditional petrol vehicle, although they will notice the massive efficiencies and cost savings.
While perhaps not one of the best-known names in the electric car industry, there is no doubt that original owner of Myers Motors took a big gamble when acquiring the assets of a relatively unknown electric vehicle manufacturer back in 2004. Myers Motors originally began life as Corbin Motors back in January 1996 with the introduction of the Sparrow electric vehicle to this new and up-and-coming arena. However, with less than 300 Sparrows produced, the company was forced to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in March 2003. The assets of the company where then transferred to Ron Huch who unsuccessfully attempted to revamp the Sparrow, the rights for which were finally sold to Dana Myers under a new company known as Myers Motors.
The company has since gone from strength to strength with the introduction of the MM NmG in April 2006. There have since been major developments in the battery technology used within the MM NmG with the company currently claiming to have doubled the cars range to over 60 miles. While initially not one of the better designed electric vehicles in the market today there have been significant improvements in the overall look and feel of the vehicle which have made it more acceptable to the wider consumer market. It will be interesting to see how Myers Motors develops and expands in the future after initially breaking into this very difficult and often complex marketplace.
While many people still believe that the electric vehicle market is still a relatively new introduction to the automotive industry, the history of the Detroit Electric company certainly casts a very different light on this industry. Originally created back in 1907 as part of the Anderson Electric Car Company in Detroit, Michigan the company peaked between 1910 and 1920 where between 1000 and 2000 vehicles a year rolled off the production line. It was the exceedingly high price of gasoline towards the end of World War I which gave the company a major competitive edge over more traditional vehicles but by the late 1920s the company was struggling and while an initial bankruptcy filing was staved off the Detroit Electric company effectively went out of business on 23 February 1939. However, names such as Thomas Edison and John D Rockefeller were notable owners of Detroit Electric vehicles.
In 2008 the name of the Detroit Electric company was revised to by the Anderson Electric car company and one of the earliest brand names in the electric car industry was reborn. The company has since gone on to announce a number of joint ventures and partnerships with well-known electric vehicle suppliers and manufacturers around the world. After apparently dying a sad death in 1939, the company is still alive and kicking over 70 years later with many of the earlier Detroit Electric vehicles almost priceless in today's market.
Many people will be surprised to learn that even in the 1800s and the 1900s the electric vehicle industry was thriving due in the main to the excessive cost of gasoline, especially towards the end of World War I. However, as oil became one of the major commodities in the world the electric vehicle market was effectively killed off for nearly 60 years before being revived when yet again the price of oil began to rise to levels which were uncomfortable for traditional car users and traditional car manufacturers. As a consequence the number of electric vehicle manufacturers in the world continues to grow although many of the smaller more successful companies have at some stage announced tie-ups with major traditional car manufacturers or in many cases become wholly-owned subsidiaries of the best-known names in the automotive industry.
There will forever be a conspiracy theory surrounding the General Motors EV1, which to this day continues to grab the headlines. Many believe that political interference in the early days of the electrical vehicle market led to this new technology effectively dying a death until the pressure became too much for governments around the world and they had to give in. Now we are seeing the introduction of major tax incentives for both manufacturers and buyers of electric vehicles as more and more governments look to reduce damage to the environment and increase the use of efficient fuel vehicles.
Companies such as Tesla Motors are a perfect example of how relatively niche market companies have been able to survive and grow as the electric vehicle market continues to develop. Those who had the foresight to look ahead nearly 20 years ago are now benefiting from some very wise investments and very wise business plans.