Electric vehicles, once the great unknown, are now very much a reality. The vehicles are improving. And although a technological breakthrough for batteries is unlikely before 2020, batteries are improving, too.
The case for the electric vehicle also is improving.
Now comes the hard part. The next ingredient must be collaboration among automakers, suppliers, energy utilities, government agencies and other organizations.
So far, development has been done mostly on an ad hoc basis. The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt -- perhaps prodded a bit by Tesla -- lead the EV race, but the level of complexity will rise as new players enter the segment.
Many new cars are on the way -- perhaps a tenfold increase in the market over the next three years -- and the need for infrastructure development will accelerate.
Collaboration among global regulatory bodies can speed development. And collaboration is needed to determine who will pay for vehicle development and solve issues related to the power grid.
For example, electric systems vary among manufacturers; they could be standardized. And partnerships with utilities could create the opportunity for secondary use of lithium ion batteries on the power grid and cut the high price of EVs.
If automakers, utilities and charging companies team up, they can make the process seamless and easy for customers.
All parties must work together to determine an efficient path for the industry. Core competencies and weaknesses by market areas must be identified. Then opportunities for near-term collaboration must be found.
The early adopters have turned the EV movement into more than just a spark. If EVs are going to be a viable and long-term option for the second wave of consumers, partnerships must be in place to take the EV market to the next level.