For four days earlier this month (May 6th – 9th), Los Angeles, California became the center of the international electric vehicle industry. From May 6th to 9th, the city served as host of the 26th International Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS26). The symposium is considered to be the electric vehicle industry’s premier forum, its lectures, presentations and product introductions drawing the participation of the industry’s leading players as well as the researchers driving development of the technology at its core.

The symposium features a series of expert panels and presentations, in which engineers and other researchers present their latest research and the results of recently completed projects, spread out over the course of its four days. In addition to this research oriented perspective, the symposium also provides companies with the opportunity to present their latest products on an expo floor.

Chris Rowell, a researcher from Aalto Universtiy contributing to the Eco Urban Living initiative’s research in stream 5, Market Making Ecosystems, traveled to Los Angeles to attend EVS26 to study the current state of the international electric vehicle industry. Here are some of Chris’s general reflections on EVS26 and what the symposium suggests about the present state of the industry.

EVS26 – General Reflections

EVS26 brought together a collection of people who, by and large, seemed overwhelmingly enthusiastic about EVs. Perhaps the majority of them were from utilities (of which there are around 3273 in the US), many were from OEMs, and the rest from charging infrastructure providers, battery makers, other suppliers, and private EV enthusiasts.

From the discussions with some consultants, it seemed that the attendees who faced the greatest risk were the ones whose businesses depended on the success of EVs. This was consistent with a couple of the presentations that I attended, which suggested that those for whom EVs were not the main business would have greater buyer power within the supply chain. In addition, I met several people who suggested that most of the infrastructure providers present would be out of business in a couple of years.

Overall, the message to participants was fairly consistent: Imploring actors to focus on the customer/end user. This implicitly assumes their existence – something that was only questioned by a couple of people over the course of the convention. The underlying logic that seemed to prevail was that end users simply lacked education, and once they knew more about EVs they would be converted. Steve Jobs (“people don’t know what they want until you tell them”) and Henry Ford (“if I had asked people what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse”) were both quoted routinely to emphasize this point.

Everyone advocated increased information and education, and some participants placed the responsibility more specifically on utilities – perhaps because they could be in the best position to do so (i.e. they stand to gain from EV adoption, and could assume integrative/’face’ role).

For more detailed analysis of what he learned at EVS26 read Chris’s reflections on Utilities, OEMs, Batteries, the Market, and Charging Infrastructure.

Read more: The EVS26 website

A press release from the Electric Drive Transportation Association on the symposium

Photos from EVS26

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