• Electric Mobility
  • Electric Vehicles
  • COVID-19
  • Automotive Industry
  • Urban Mobility

Uncharted Territory: Building New Pathways to E-Mobility Resilience

Sam Abuelsamid
May 14, 2020

EVs 3

As the calendar rolled over into 2020, the global automotive industry was already anticipating a tumultuous decade ahead. Little did anyone know at the time that many of these expectations were about to be amplified. The spread of a global pandemic and erratic political responses have created a degree of uncertainty beyond anything in living memory, and if there is one thing business hates, it’s uncertainty. Nonetheless, the challenges the world faced before the coronavirus outbreak will remain once the immediate health crisis subsides.

E-Mobility Helps Address Climate Change

Number one among these challenges is the need to address climate change through more sustainable modes of mobility. A shift from individual ownership or internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to mobility enabled by connectivity, automation, services, and electrification (CASE) has been seen as a key component of the transformation. Since transportation is an integral part of the broader economy, the CASE shift would drive a number of other changes, particularly for electric power generation and distribution.

The period since the last recession one decade ago has millions of people adopting three of the four elements of CASE. This adoption was made possible by the emergence of electric propulsion as a viable alternative to ICE and smartphones that allow us to summon a ride nearly anywhere and anytime. Automation is taking longer to mature into a viable consumer solution but it, too, will come.

E-Mobility May Suffer As a Result of the Pandemic

The world now faces a disruption unlike anything seen in over a century, an economic fallout that will likely require years of recovery and a dramatic shift in social norms. CASE relies on urban densification and maximized utilization of resources through sharing to provide its desired benefits, including reduced energy use and road congestion with maximized access to mobility.

However, this same densification has been one of the key vectors in the spread of the pandemic over the past 6 months. Social distancing that will likely persist to some degree for years runs counter to the concept of an urban population that shares mobility devices from electric scooters and bicycles to robotaxis and mass transit. Surveys are already indicating that 50% or more consumers plan to use shared mobility less or not at all after the health crisis subsides.

Remote Work May Affect Electrified Transport

Electrification of transportation faces more than societal challenges in the near term. The economic impact of the lockdown orders imposed on much of the world’s population is likely to be extensive, with recovery taking years rather than months. The Guidehouse Insights report, Assessing the Coronavirus Impact on Automotive Electrification and Drive Automationprojects that vehicle sales are unlikely to fully recover before 2023 or 2024. Massive job losses will make it more challenging for consumers to purchase any new vehicle, especially EVs with higher costs.

Millions of people who had never worked remotely have been doing so for several months now. Companies such as Google and Facebook have announced the intention to maintain remote work policies through the end of 2020, and Twitter has made remote work permanent. If a significant portion of the workforce continues working remotely on a permanent basis, this change will have lasting effects on real estate and other business sectors. It will also drive a shift toward more commercial transport to support e-commerce, which may turn to electrification to reduce operating costs. The end result of reducing the need for personal vehicles may still be achieved, though the pathway to a more sustainable and resilient society may be quite different than what was envisioned just a few months ago. Join Guidehouse experts Derek Jones, Dan Hahn, Christine Richards, and Sam Abuelsamid as they discuss e-mobility resilience on May 19, 2020 at 1 p.m. EST as part of the Guidehouse webinar series, Pathways to Resilience: Infrastructure 4.0.