BILBAO, Spain -- Sustainable success for electric vehicles will happen only with better collaboration, a panel of EV experts told the Automotive News Europe Congress last month.
"If we don't share technology and architectures, the breakthrough for EVs will be much slower than any of us want," said Herbert Demel, executive vice president of Canadian supplier Magna International Inc. "We will change the world. How fast we do this is the open question."
There have been some positive signs that companies will work together.
Toyota Motor Corp. and U.S. electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. have said they may cooperate on electric-vehicle development, although they have not signed an agreement. Toyota plans to buy a $50 million stake in Tesla, which last week became the first U.S. automaker to launch an initial public offering since Ford Motor Co. went public in 1956.
Last year, Daimler AG bought nearly 10 percent of Tesla. Two months later, Daimler sold 40 percent of that stake to its major shareholder, Aabar Investments of Abu Dhabi.
Daimler and Aabar said the reason for the deal was to gain access to Tesla's electric-car expertise. Starting this year, Tesla's lithium ion battery will power Daimler subsidiary Smart's test fleet of ForTwo electric minicars.
Tesla's vice president of European sales and operations, Cristiano Carlutti, told the congress that this of collaboration is crucial for EVs. It proves to Carlutti that Tesla will have a place in the market for years to come.
"We have a scale advantage when it comes to the batteries," he said. "That is where we can separate ourselves. We want to take our technology mainstream."
Richard Canny, CEO of Norway-based electric car maker Think, said his company has attracted great interest in its electric drivetrain. Think's first potential customer is the Japanese postal service, which is testing Think's system to determine whether to use it in a fleet of 22,000 vehicles.
Peter Fuss, Ernst & Young's automotive leader for Germany, Switzerland and Austria, told the congress that another partner should be part of all future EV discussions: "We need much more cooperation between automakers and utility companies." Some early examples include Daimler's infrastructure agreement with German energy provider RWE AG and Renault SA's alliance with power companies Enel, of Italy, and Endesa in Spain.
Fuss summed up the panel's feelings on the future for electric cars when he said: "We need to look at what is achievable and not expect everything to happen immediately. We are at the beginning of the discussion, not the end."