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Published on January 2nd, 2018 | by Nicolas Zart


2017 Electric Mobility Highlights

January 2nd, 2018 by  

2017 was a strange year, with plenty to celebrate and plenty to ponder about. The wild ups and downs most of us have gone through, both personally and professionally, were reflected in the industries we cover as well. So let’s take a look at what surprised us, what shows the most potential, and what was simply strange.

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2017 EV Highlights — What Was Great About This Past Year?

2017 gave us much to celebrate. Tesla’s Model 3 was finally unveiled in its final form and started heading out the door. All eyes converged on the Californian mobility company, with praise and hope or criticism and skepticism. Its solar roof tiles and solar panels, combined with its Powerwall, finally concretizes Tesla’s holistic electric mobility vision. Now Tesla customers can produce electricity with Tesla’s solar roof tiles, store it in Tesla’s Powerwalls, and, of course, drive the company’s electric vehicles on that electricity, vehicles which have eaten deeply into the luxury car segment, shaming mainstream carmakers into recognizing EVs as not only here to stay, but as the only viable way forward. The Model 3 has stimulated many other electric cars and a faster switch to an electric vehicle future, but it also suffered from somewhat expected production delays that have put another wrinkle on Tesla’s otherwise beautiful suit.

Tesla also blew our minds a bit with a hyper-competitive electric semi truck and prototype Roadster 2, with further hints of a comping Model Y and Tesla pickup truck. Stay tuned…

Nissan finally released the second-generation LEAF, starting with the new 2018 LEAF, and the wait was well worth it. There was some hope for more range and disappointment with the specs revealed, but it seems that extra range is coming just a year later. Did we wish the 2018 LEAF could offer 240 miles as the Chevy Bolt does? Of course, but the accent was on the driving experience and overall package, and we would say the LEAF has matured almost perfectly.

The Bolt, by the way, soared to #1 in US EV sales, but we do wish production capacity and the distribution strategy were developed enough to get thousands of Bolts into the hands of European drivers aching for such a car. At least the Bolt is making many first-time EV drivers and CleanTechnica readers happy, though.

Perhaps the most fun I had since the unveiling of the Tesla Model S P90D was a test drive in a Lucid Air mule. If that is what the company can do in three years with fewer than 300 people on staff, then I can’t wait to see how this car will mature.

Lucid Motors Air

The really big news this year, though, was to see China coming into its own by leading the EV industry in terms of sales (by far). The world’s biggest car market now has more EV and PHEV sales than we have in the US and Europe combined. China managed to keep its Alternative Energy Car initiative of 2003 going for over a decade despite changing administrations, and it has gotten stronger and stronger. This kind of support is something the West seems incapable of sustaining.

Charging companies have continued to take the lead, with startups picking up where big companies cannot make a profit. Envision Solar, Repower Group, and EV Safe Charge, to name just a few, are showing that US startups are still alive and thinking out of the box. Hardware and software agnosticism is the name of the game. So is stellar customer service that goes the extra mile. Stay tuned as we write more about those trendsetting companies.

Drones are everywhere, so are vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircrafts (in the news). But we’re yet to see where startups lead and what will be successfully commercialized.

Autonomous vehicles (AV) were the accent in 2017, heralding a new era of easy mobility, but who will pay for AVs? That question remains in limbo.

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are getting better and lighter. The companies that impressed us the most this year were Jetson’s Adventure, Gocycle, and Propella’s e-bike. And let’s not forget how, again, electric motorcycles show the world how the electric motor is superior. Californian electric motorcycle maker Alta Motors shamed gasoline-powered bikes by winning this year’s Geneva motocross race with a customer’s electric motorcycle from last year! It just doesn’t get any better.

Alta Motors Matthew Work is New Chief Revenue Officer

Here’s a list of some of the EVs and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) I enjoyed seeing this year:

For a more comprehensive rundown of EVs we reviewed, see: “47 CleanTechnica Electric Vehicle Review Articles In 2017.”

2017 EV Highlights — What Was Not So Great About This Past Year?

On the renewable energy industry side, certain Western politicians showed they can squabble more than get things done. The EPA is almost neutered and a repeal of Net Neutrality handed the Internet’s inherent free nature over to greedy corporations ready to throttle our traffic and make us pay more than we already do (in the USA). A solution: individuals rebuild the internet our way with micro-internet hubs.

We’re still observing Faraday Future (FF) wobbling and are not sure if it will secure another miracle round of finances or finally disappear. As we predicted, at least some of that brainshare slipped out and started a few other startups. And as easy as it is to criticize startups for their enthusiasm, at least they’re trying to do something to get those EVs on the road — hopefully we see some successes beyond funding in 2018.

Come on, e-bike makers — the price should come down a lot lower than $1,800 or $1,500. It should be around $1,000 for entry-level e-bikes. Who’s going to get there first and get our business?

2017 EV Highlights — What Was Just Plain Strange?

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is well aware that EVs could crush gas-powered cars and that producing batteries pollutes. Sadly, he doesn’t push the reasoning past the simple fact that manufacturing anything at large scale pollutes, including making gasoline cars. He also doesn’t seem too concerned with which is actually much cleaner. Sergio, why not take a stand to clean up the manufacturing process rather than stay in the 20th century?

The world of drones and VTOLS are upon us, but we still question drone maker Ehang’s Ehang 184 and its exposed propellers, ready to chop off anything in their way. Hopefully the next one will cover up those blades.

Toyota, long dissing EVs, has now come to the realization that it too will have to join the rank instead of downplaying EVs’ role in future mobility. After a 5-year stint of car recalls, it is now opening its corporate car leasing to private owners and announces that it will offer EVs soon, real soon. We reminded the company to walk the talk on its website.

This is just a quick recap and the list could quickly grow to include a part 2 and even a part 3. We’ll leave it at that for now.

Also check out what we’re looking forward to in 2018, and stay tuned for more forecasts. One easy prediction is that we’re going to cover a lot more Chinese cleantech news, and we’ll surprise you with a few more things. Stay tuned…

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About the Author

Nicolas was born and raised in the world of classic cars of the 1920s. It wasn't until he drove an AC Propulsion eBox and finally a Tesla Roadster that the light went on. Eager to spread the news of that full torque, he started writing in 2007 for various CleanTech outlets. Since then, his passion led to cover renewable energy, test drives, podcasts, shoot pictures, and film for various international outlets both in print and online. Nicolas offers an in-depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he has forged in those industries. Today he focuses most of his writing effort on CleanTechnica, a global online outlet that covers the world of electric vehicles and renewable energy. His favorite tagline is: "There are more solutions than obstacles."

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