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EVs Hit a Rough Patch

Jan. 29, 2024
Jim Lucy2012 770 2

The Devil in the Details

Feb. 9, 2023
Less is seldom really more in this age of bite-sized chunks of news and information.

In an age where the content we digest is often shaped by the character count in a tweet on Twitter or how far down we scroll on our smartphones, it’s harder than ever to get the full context of a news story or other information in a digital format.

I recently ran across several types of content in the electrical market that illustrate this conundrum and realized you must be more careful than ever with the content you read.

The big-and-bold headline that doesn’t tell the whole story

A presentation at the recent NAED Western Conference in Palm Desert, CA, focused on several new online purchasing platforms intended to help contractors buy direct from manufacturers in the construction market. The keynote speaker at the conference, Alex Moazed, the founding CEO of Applico, a developer of online platforms, ruffled a few feathers at the meeting with his discussion of Schneider Electric’s involvement with several of these purchasing platforms through its venture capital unit, SE Ventures. That business unit recently invested in three young new-tech companies — Renorun, KOJO and Enable. Renorun and KOJO are developing online procurement platforms that focus on direct-to-contractors transactions, while in contrast, Enable helps distributors manage their rebates.

One of Moazed’s slides offered some bulleted points on the three new-tech companies — and a title in large bold type: “Schneider Electric’s Investments in Distributor Disruption.”

The slide didn’t offer any context of Schneider’s history in the electrical market, and if someone at the presentation was new to the business and was unfamiliar with Schneider, they wouldn’t have learned anything in the presentation about the company’s 100-plus year commitment to electrical distributors, or that the vast majority of its electrical products sales go through distributors. They could have come away from that presentation thinking that Schneider was just interested investing in several fledgling new-tech companies marketing direct-to-customer online purchasing platforms that could cut distributors out of the loop.

Where there’s smoke, there isn’t necessarily fire — yet.

The potential of electric vehicles and the related sales opportunity that EV charging stations represent for electrical distributors fascinates me, and I am convinced the billions of dollars the major car manufacturers are investing in new EV factories and EV battery development are a sure sign EVs will slowly but surely forever change the automobile industry.

But we need to pump the brakes a bit on EVs. While folks with Level 2 EV chargers in their garages will have a dependable charge waiting for them every night, it will be years before folks in apartments and other multi-family housing projects will have a place to charge their vehicles. And the infrastructure money for EV charging stations is real, but it will be pumped into local markets through states and municipal governments. Distributors, reps and contractors interested in EV charger installations will have to figure out how to get to that money through local contacts in those branches of government or local agencies.

Another huge challenge will be developing the nationwide EV charging network along the nation’s highways, because right now it’s woefully inadequate. If you want an unbiased take on the state of the public charging network, check out Kyle Conner’s EV reviews on his Out of Spec Studios YouTube videos, and his sometimes harrowing experiences with finding a dependable charge on his cross-country test drives of various new EVs, or his recent frustrations with finding a working EV charger in sub-freezing temperatures in Colorado.

Getting the real story on industry growth

While much of the business news these days is all about the thousands of people getting laid off in tech industries and the potential of a recession, the economic reality in this industry is that while some signs of a slowdown do exist, the business is still hanging in there. You do have to account for rising electrical prices, and overall market growth right now may be flat at best because of inflation.

It’s both a blessing and a curse that we have access to more information than ever before. The time you take to carefully analyze all of the nuances of the information you consume is well-worth the investment.