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Will Electric Vehicle Growth Mirror the Mobile Phone Market?

It is not surprising how the electric vehicle growth story mirrors mobile phone growth but about 30 years later. It was in 1973, when Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher made the first analog phone call using a heavy prototype device. Then came the first generation of mobile cell sites, with ability to transfer calls from one site to next in 1979.

It was in 1981 when 1G network was launched by Nordic Mobile Telephone and then in 1984, Bell Labs launched commercial cellular technology which employed multiple centrally located cell sites each providing service to a small area. It was in 1990 the second generation 2G mobile phone emerged using GSM standard. Although 2G digital technology was sufficient to grow mobile phone market, it was the talk time due to battery limitation that stopped the growth of this emerging market.

It was not until 1996 where Nickel Metal Hydride and then Lithium batteries were introduced in cell phones reducing their size while increasing the talk time that exploded the market into triple digit growth. The market grew from 11 million handsets to 91 million overnight and now at 5.4 billion in short 10 years. Being an early adopter you can always count me in the 11 million handsets sold during early 1990.

Although historians may argue that the exponential growth was result of improved networks, infrastructure and software development, yet from consumer standpoint it was the talk time and reduction in number of daily charge time made it a practical device. It was the high rate of adoption by consumers that resulted in investment into infrastructure, software and digital technology.

Similar is the story of electric vehicles, although 30 years later. In electric vehicle history, it was in 1992 when we sold 400 electric delivery vans to subsidiary of Frito Lays in Mexico (a single largest deployment of electric vans in single location) yet it was the lack of battery technology that did not allow exponential growth anticipated. During the past decade lot has been done in terms of development of motor, transistor, charger technologies to set the stage for this predicted growth in next five years. Today with three times more battery energy than five years ago, with newer generation of batteries on the horizon which will triple the range in next 2-3 years, is what leads us to the question “Will EV market growth match growth rates of Mobile Phones?”. I know its an odd question on surface yet both industries were waiting for newer battery technology.

Article by Balwinder Samra, CEO of Balqon Corporation.