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2011: The Rise of the Electric Car

The electric cars are here! The electric cars are here! Although I predicted it as a sustainability trend for 2010, it seems like 2011 will definitely be the year that consumers get options when it comes to electric vehicles. The first month of 2011 has seen several announcements regarding greener cars:

  • Prius announces a family of Priuses (Priusii?)—a compact, a station wagon, a plug-in option. Prius officially moves from being a product to being a full sub-brand with a suite of products for various driver needs.
  • Ford debuts its new Ford Focus Electric at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.
  • Tesla also showed off a vehicle at the 2011 CES, partnering with chip maker Invidia to let people see (but not touch) the Tesla Model S, their upcoming sedan addition to the Telsa family.
  • Motor Trend names the Chevy Volt as their Car of the Year.
  • The Nissan Leaf, announced at the end of 2010, ramps up marketing for 2011 purchase.
  • The Chinese auto maker BYD (backed by Warren Buffett) plans on finally releasing their electric car in the U.S. in 2011.
  • Even Porsche is making noise about a high performance (and high priced) hybrid.

Add to this brands as diverse as Leviton, GE and Best Buy talking about their various activities in providing electric car charging stations (either at home or on the road) and suddenly you see a whole lot of relatively well known brands active in a space that, three years ago, was simply something that would be coming 'in the future.' Looks like the future is now.

As I've noted in this blog before, this is how change happens. It seems to suddenly appear and the industry dynamic changes drastically. But that 'sudden change' is built on a whole series of small steps taken by visionary brands (and individuals), placing bets on what the future will be and how they will gain advantage from it. In 20 years time, "the Big Three Automakers" may look very different than they do today. Which brands do you think will own the emerging electric car market?