Self-Driving Electric Vehicles Change Everything

Picture this. The year is 2050.

You wake up and get ready for your day.

Your self-driving electric vehicle (EV) takes you to work while you use the time to sleep or for something productive.

When you get there, your car drops you off and then drives away.

As you are at work, your car is picking up other people and driving them around Uber-style.

Your car then drives itself home. It attaches to your home energy system connected to a solar array on your roof. The car, being a mobile battery itself, takes on excess power that your solar array is generating. The car battery stores energy when demand (and therefore the price of electricity) is low during the middle of the day.

Later, after picking you up from work, the car then sells the energy it has stored back to the grid when peak power demand is happening and power prices are higher.

Instead of being a purely depreciating asset, your vehicle has become a revenue generation tool.

There’s no doubt that this concept will ultimately transform personal mobility and energy use completely.

One effect of autonomous electric vehicles will be to make parking lots disappear completely. The idea of parking a potentially lucrative asset will be seen as wasteful. Why leave your car sitting when it could be making you money driving people around? Modern city planning and design is currently based on conventional vehicles. The fabric of our urban areas may look very different when self-driving EVs abound.

The idea of traffic will soon be an unfamiliar concept. Autonomous vehicles all communicating in a network will be able to effortlessly direct their own flow in a hyper-optimized way. It’s hard to even put a value on the quality of life benefits this will provide.

These changes might also encourage more ride sharing and reduce car ownership. Electric vehicles are likely to last much longer as they have drastically less mechanical parts and aren’t powered by destructive internal combustion. A glut in cars available to autonomously drive people around at a moment’s notice will drive the cost of personal mobility way down. It’s possible that we could get to a point where most of the vehicles in our society are owned and operated as a fleet by larger companies.

In any case, over the next few decades, there will be a widespread transition to autonomous connected EVs. This alone would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions given that transportation accounts for 15% of total global emissions.

The energy system will naturally be asked to bear a significantly larger load as all vehicles become electrified. As the electricity grid powering EVs gets cleaner as well, emissions will be further decreased.

Charging your EV will become an important part of the overall energy system. It will also become more affordable through software which can actively determine the best times to charge from and feed to the grid. All of this is enabled by data and technology.

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It seems like a good bet to look at how “software is eating the world” across all other industries and assume that technology will similarly start to dominate this space as well. We might interact with autonomous EVs more in a way that is closer to how we use phones today. Over the air updates will improve vehicles’ software over time, in opposition to the deterioration we have come to expect.

Electric vehicles are flexible components in the energy network of the future. The use of software and data to optimize their flexibility will be a huge boon to the energy system as a whole.

The really high level of all this is that eventually - transportation and energy converge to two parts of the same system. We’re already part of the way there.

Think about that for a moment. Eventually, energy and transportation will fundamentally become the same industry. The implications are big. The gears are already in motion.

Will you be proactive in adapting to changing energy and transportation systems? How will it affect your business?

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