Electromobility is one of the new playgrounds for innovative companies. A sector that could encourage the emergence of giants of a new kind.
From Hewlett-Packard to Google and Apple, legend has it that the biggest tech companies were born in a garage, often with just over a dollar in their pocket. If the allegory of the garage is not alien to the world of the automobile, the parallel stops here, because the investments today are much more consistent, and no one would think of launching a new Ford with pieces of rope from below. of the parents’ shed.
That being said, if history doesn’t repeat itself, it sometimes stutters, and there are some indications that the ongoing saga of electric cars could, in turn, produce giants that may not even exist yet as we write these lines. And contrary to what we experienced with GAFAMs, it could also be that these future giants are not Americans. Or, at least, not only.
Electromobility GAFAMs may be European
Because, whether in the realm of the electric car or related sectors, the U.S. is no longer alone in the marketplace as it could be – and still is – in the realm of computing, the internet, and digital technologies. Of course, we are thinking of China, which in terms of production seems to be leading the way, either in the large number of its automotive brands or in that of batteries and their components. But Europe, with a long and solid automotive tradition, should not be left out, positioning itself more in innovation and services. A Europe that is moving at a rapid pace towards all electricity thanks to environmental commitments that could give it a decisive advantage, if we consider the regulatory limitations as a stimulus of creativity and, therefore, of innovation (yes, yes, there are a debate on this point, and will not be resolved here).
So, of course, when we talk about GAFAM and transpose the concept to the electric car industry, the first name that comes to mind is American, and it is Tesla. In fact, the California-based Texan maker meets almost every box of the tech giant: abysmal losses at first and then meteoric growth, innovation, (big) data management, and direct customer relationship through a technology tool. , the car … connected, needless to say, here replacing your smartphone or computer.
But other players are trying to get their feet wet, and they develop very quickly relying on the same ingredients that have made GAFAM successful: agility, innovation and, of course, a solid financial base made up of capital (a bit) and fundraising. fund (a lot). First we think of charging operators who are a little electromobility what ISPs or data centers on the Internet are: network infrastructures that allow access to content (the road). Thus, in this sector, the race is finally underway, with players marking their territory with great fundraising moves. This is the case of Ionity (700 million recently from Blackrock) but also Power Dot (150 million), Fastned (150 million) or Electra (15 million and an upcoming round). There are other players in the race, more discreet, perhaps a little less rich, but who will surely weigh in the game over the next few years, be operators or evolve in sectors close to electromobility, such as applications (ABRP, Chargemap). , Plugshare, Nabla Connect, etc.), innovative services (Dreev, Yespark ReCharge, Clem, etc.) or smart charging devices (Sparklin, etc.).
A market that offers another similarity to the digital market, that of being supported by an ecosystem formed by business angelventure capital firms (Serena, for example, was part of Electra’s funding round) and even specialist nurseries such as AVERE France and its Advenir program.
And innovation in all this?
If all electric cars are similar in design and functionality, such as digital, it is in the clear management of the data where the difference will be marked, whether it is the knowledge of the driver and his behavior (and for both their expectations) or the artificial intelligence that governs the car and battery management. It could be that, from this point of view, the automotive industry needs more today data scientists than mechanics. In these areas, China (and its dozens of manufacturers) and Silicon Valley still seem to be one step ahead, but Europe, with its historic players, has not said its last word, either Mercedes with its record of autonomy or Audi and Porsche. with its 800-volt architecture that enables the world’s fastest loading speeds in production vehicles.
We know, however, that when we talk about GAFAM (or GAFA), it is rarely done in laudatory terms, and that criticism is not far off. They are often criticized for their control over data, intrusive tracking, and bias. Not to mention the demand that is usually made of them on their ability to influence the life of the city, to the point of changing the election results. Will the same happen to the giants born of high-tech automotive? Hard to say. Some clues, however, suggest what could be a Big Brother in car sauce, such as Tesla’s already controversial safety score, which could influence insurance rates. Not to mention this black box story that could appear in cars. In short, in terms of data and its use, today’s cars, equipped with dozens of sensors, are an almost inexhaustible gold mine.
Data, innovation, cutting-edge technologies … Slightly vague concepts for the privileged with a well-stocked portfolio? Not so sure. The history of the car has shown over the last few decades that innovation, initially reserved for the high end, always ends up reaching the entire sector, down to the entry level. The same will probably happen in the electric car industry.
It remains to be seen about the future Google or Meta of the industry that already exists. And if your garage is in Asia, America or Europe. And above all, what innovative innovation (s) will be offered …