Porsche’s recent tragedy with the Taycan has sent waves through the EV community. Even though many supporters of the EV Revolution criticized the Porsche Taycan, no one wanted to see it meet this tragic outcome.
At the end of the day, EV supporters are rooting for change in the entire auto industry. Porsche’s gallant foray into the all-electric car segment was a bold step, especially for a legacy automaker, but it is going to take more than guts to survive the EV Revolution.
Most legacy automakers don’t seem to realize that entering the electric car market will require more effort, work, and sacrifice from them. Tesla had to learn this the hard way, specifically with the original Roadster and initial Model 3 production a couple of years ago.
Telsa’s first attempt with the Roadster wasn’t exactly a bullseye. Back then, the startup automaker thought it would be adequate to put batteries in a Lotus Elise body. By the end of the original Roadster's production run, the Lotus Elise body had been modified so much that Tesla might as well have designed the car from scratch.
Needless to say, the company was naive at the time—which Elon Musk admitted in his interview in the Third Row Tesla Podcast. Ultimately, Tesla’s struggles with the original Roadster encouraged the company to design an EV of its own from scratch.
When it started mass production of the Model 3, Tesla struggled again and this eventually led to the GA4 Tent. The temporary makeshift production line for the 2017 Model 3 was Tesla, once again starting from square one—at least in the mass assembly department.
Tesla’s journey with the 2008 Roadster and the Model 3's production was challenging. However, it forced the company to think differently and be resourceful. Those struggles basically helped Tesla become the innovative auto industry disruptor it is today.
There’s no doubt that electric vehicles have arrived, and the EV Revolution is here to stay this time—at least to the majority of the world. However, the question remains: how can legacy automakers transition from being fossil-fuel car producers to all-electric EV manufacturers?
The answer is quite simple and lies in Tesla’s journey. Legacy automakers must start from scratch. They must not be afraid to forge into the road not traveled in the auto industry for so long.
To start, legacy automakers must realize that the knowledge they’ve gained in the ICE-dominant car industry will be next to useless in the EV business. Traditional car manufacturers need to recognize that they will probably need to sacrifice some of their legacies to enter the EV market.
One part of the old auto industry that might need to be dismantled would be the supply chain, which was proven to hinder innovation in old automakers. Nikkei Business Publications conducted a teardown of a Tesla Model 3 recently. An engineer from one of Japan’s leading automakers helped with the teardown and claimed that Tesla’s Hardware 3 chip was at least six years ahead of other companies in the auto industry.
Worst yet, the engineer concluded that if legacy automakers were to try to close the gap with Tesla, it would be detrimental to the auto industry’s current supply structure. The choice then for long-time car makers was between keeping the status quo and risking advancement in the industry or innovating but losing the foundation built through the years.
Porsche decided to innovate with the Taycan, but it couldn’t extract itself from its foundation. When it came to the Taycan, Porsche’s goal was to make an EV much like its legendary vehicle, the 911. The car is designed on its own EV platform, but there's a lot less vertical integration involved compared to Tesla's electric cars.
Batteries are one of the most essential components to an EV, but most legacy automakers aren’t spending enough time to research and develop them like Tesla. The maker of the Roadster, Models S, 3, and X have clearly spent a lot of time working on and learning about batteries.
It shows, too. Just recently, news broke that Tesla could be in talks with CATL for a cobalt-free battery. Tesla has developed its own specific battery chemistry, and it's pursued improvements ever since. All it really needs from third-party battery companies are cells, but the company is looking to produce its own cells in the near future too.
Some traditional car manufacturers don’t seem to realize that batteries and powertrains are the bread and butter of electric vehicles. Most of the EVs designed by legacy automakers focus on the design, features, and quirky goods of the cars. Batteries and powertrains feel like an afterthought, even though they would be the most equivalent to an engine.
I have no doubt about the world is going toward electrify, but my biggest question will be who’s (legacy automakers) gonna be successful survive thru this revolution.— Vincent (@vincent13031925) February 18, 2020
Then there is the topic of tech advancements, which are the toppings of the EV cake. Tesla is known for its cool, fun features--the coolest of them all being Autopilot and FSD. Legacy automakers have tried to mimic or deliver equally fascinating features in their electric cars, but often miss the target.
This is because Tesla doesn’t just think like an automaker, it also thinks like a tech company. Traditional automakers only wear one mask, but to survive the EV revolution, they will need to wear both.
Ultimately, the recent Porsche Taycan fire revealed that the EV revolution will be about survival for legacy automakers. In order to survive, traditional car manufacturers need to realize that all-electric vehicles are a different beast. And to tame them, they have to be open-minded enough to admit that even veterans still need a lot of learning to do.
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