When cocktail-party conversations turn to EV electronics, batteries seem to get most of the attention, but telematics are also a key part of any high-tech vehicle – and a lucrative one. A new report from Pike Research says that nine out of ten EVs sold in the next year will include at least a basic telematics package, and that annual revenue from worldwide sales of EV telematics will total $1.4 billion by 2017.
Telematics are the components that allow vehicles to send and receive information wirelessly while on the road. All new vehicles are loading up on telematics, which are used for remote diagnostics, live traffic and weather updates, breakdown calls and, not least, for entertaining the kids on long drives. The technology is especially handy for EV drivers, as it can show the locations of nearby charging stations (a good selling point for buyers who are still plagued by range anxiety).
More esoteric applications include GM’s team of men in black who (we are told) are notified by the company’s OnStar telematics system, and dispatched anywhere on the globe that a Volt should crash, to ensure that the battery is properly drained.
The convergence of automotive and wireless technologies can be a challenge, as wireless equipment manufacturers used to operating on internet time must adapt to the comparatively plodding pace of product development in the automotive world.
“The hardware manufacturers are experiencing a bit of a culture shock,” says Pike analyst Dave Hurst, “as automotive development generally targets an 8 to 10-year lifespan, compared to a 2 to 3-year lifespan for other wireless devices. For this reason, despite the fact that much of the data being transferred in EV telematics can be done easily with a slow GSM connection, most hardware manufacturers are targeting 3G services with their modems to ensure compatibility with the wireless network long term.”