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Polestar 2 upgrades raise questions about the depreciation of used EVs

Welcome to another edition of The Future of Automotive, with Steve Greenfield, Founder, and CEO of Automotive Ventures, where I put recent automotive and mobility news items into context, in terms of the broader thematic areas that will potentially impact the industry.

I’m glad that you could join us.

News out this week that the 2024 Polestar 2 will offer dramatic performance improvements vs. the current generation model.

The combination of hardware and software upgrades, including larger batteries and revamped motors, will extend the sedan’s range by 20% while using up to 9% less energy and charging up to 34% faster.

At first blush, you might not think this is big news. But it’s really got me to thinking. 

If EVs are able to deliver annual performance improvements like this (through a combination of both hardware and software upgrades), what’s it going to do to the depreciation of used vehicles that are far less attractive to the consumer as a result? 

If each subsequent generation of Polestar EVs deliver dramatic performance improvements in both battery range and power, and both the speed and power required to charge them, why wouldn’t a would-be EV shopper just wait for the next model year and postpone their purchase? 

I remember back to when the personal computer’s Intel chip (and thus processing speed), and data storage were improving so quickly that by the time you had your Dell Computer delivered, it was effectively out of date.

For example, if you were interested in buying the current year Corvette, but knew that next year’s model had more horsepower and better fuel economy for the same MSRP, wouldn’t you be likely to wait to buy next year’s model? 

And then there’s the issue of used vehicle depreciation and resale values.

If automakers are able to dramatically improve each subsequent EV model, why is anyone going to want to own a 5-year-old Polestar?

I already struggle with how the industry is going to set residual values on electric vehicles in an environment where we have 150 new EV models hitting showroom floors over the next two years, and the unpredictable demand from a U.S. consumer who is still skittish about charging range, charger availability and charging speed. Never mind the current inflation of EV MSRPs vs. their comparable Internal Combustion equivalents.

Remember back to the first generation of Nissan Leafs, when they came off lease? They had a stated range of 109 miles when new. By the time they came off lease 3 years later, you’d be lucky to get 80 miles worth of range out of them. Heaven forbid if you wanted to use the AC in the summer or heat in the winter. To state the obvious, the secondary market for used Nissan Leaf’s dropped like a stone.

Do we run the same risk if the pace of technology innovation in each new generation of EV is as dramatically improved as we’re about to witness in this new Polestar model?

One other observation before we wrap.

We’ve previously discussed on this segment the threat that we may see from Chinese automakers competing on U.S. soil.  While probably a topic for a separate future segment, keep in mind that we’re already seeing evidence of this. Polestar is a partnership between Sweden’s Volvo Car and China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Volvo’s parent company.

Polestar vehicles are currently produced in China and shipped to the U.S. Their plan is to switch production for North America and other markets starting in mid-2024 out of Volvo’s plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina. But the technology innovations mentioned at the beginning of this segment are a direct result of R&D coming out of China.

Companies to watch

Every week we highlight interesting companies in the automotive technology space to keep an eye on. If you read my industry Intel Report, I showcase a few companies each week, and we take the opportunity here on this segment to share those companies with you.

Today, we have two companies to watch: Optiwatt & Novus Sentry.

Optiwatt

Our first company to watch this week is Optiwatt.

Optiwatt is an EV charging scheduler that enables you to reduce your EV charging costs by up to 70%.

In fact, Optiwatt helps you save $388 per year on average by automatically scheduling your EV to charge when rates are cheapest.

They provide Real-time smart charging synced to your energy rate. Down to the second. The results are real-time rate tracking and forecasting to charge at the right time. 

Optiwatt also maximizes your battery life by saving the last bit of charging to pre-condition your car for departure, just before you’re ready to leave the house in the morning. 

One of the features I love the most about Opitwatt is their “Emergency Preparedness” feature. This enables EV owners to be alerted and have your battery automatically topped off prior to potential grid blackouts.

Another pretty cool feature is that they enable you to measure and monitor your savings vs. owning an internal combustion engine vehicle.  Select your previous gas car’s model to see exactly how much you’re saving by driving electric.

You can check out Optiwatt at  https://optiwatt.com/.

Novus Sentry

Our second company to watch this week is Novus Sentry. 

Novus Sentry is a technology battery health testing and diagnostic company. 

They focus on the quality of the EV battery during manufacturing and assembly; monitoring the battery performance and reliability over the lifetime of the vehicle, and finally the re-use and recycling of the battery in its second or end-of-life use-case.

Novus Sentry focuses on the rapid testing, detection and prediction of faults that can lead to high safety risk such as catastrophic failures and fires. As a result, they are able to extend the life, safety and reliability of batteries.

The reason that I love Novus Sentry is that they’re solving a real industry need.

Failures caused during manufacturing, while in use, or after retirement result in billons of dollars of recalls, loss of lives and property. This is in addition to significant damage in brand and company reputation.

Battery faults and failures may be caused by numerous conditions including manufacturing and mechanical defects, charging behavior – including over-charge, under-discharge, over-temperature, and over-current events. ​

The Novus Sentry proprietary method of testing is innovating in the early detection of internal shorts.

You can check out Novus Sentry at https://www.novussentry.com/.

If you’re an AutoTech entrepreneur working on a solution that helps car dealerships, we want to hear from you. We are actively investing out of our new DealerFund.

If you’re a dealer who wants to invest in early-stage AutoTech companies that benefit your business, let me know. We are still accepting new investors into the DealerFund.

If you’re interested in joining our Investment Club to make direct investments into AutoTech and Mobility startups with small checks, join the Club. There is no obligation to start seeing our deal flow.

And don’t forget to check out my book, The Future of Automotive Retail, on Amazon.com.

Thank you for tuning into CBT News for this week’s Future of Automotive segment, and we’ll see you next week!

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Steve Greenfield
Steve Greenfield
Steve is the Founder and CEO of Automotive Ventures, an automotive technology advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs raise money and maximize the value of their companies. They also assist PE firms to conduct due diligence on automotive technology acquisitions, advise technology CEOs on strategy, and help represent sellers at the time of sale.

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