The Global Electric Car Industry in 2009 Developments in the U.S., China, and the Rest of the World

By Robert Burgelman, Andrew Grove, Debra Schifrin
2009 | Case No. SM175
The case covers and analyzes the major players in the Electric Car Industry, with a focus on the United States and China. The case looks at start-ups and incumbent automakers, battery makers, retrofitters, utility companies and the government. In 2009, the electric car industry was poised to take a giant leap forward, with start-up companies a step ahead of large automakers. Venture capital firms were pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in promising electric car and Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) start-ups, while existing companies were pouring billions of dollars into electric car and PHEV research. There were also companies that retrofitted existing cars, turning them into Plug-in Hybrids. The case also examines the role of the U.S. and China’s government in promoting the electric car industry by providing grants and loans to electric car and battery makers, as well as giving subsidies for consumers to buy electric cars. At the same time, battery makers were racing to build enough lithium-ion batteries for automobiles to meet the expected demand. Most batteries were developed and manufactured in Asia. The electric car industry also required a vast infrastructure of charging stations in each country to enable electric car and PHEV owners to charge their cars outside their homes. Electricity companies were taking an interest in the industry, and began partnering with automakers to test how extensively electric cars used the grid. The case also explores how internal combustion engine makers were striking back with new engines that were smaller, more fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly.
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