Exploring Parallels at the Electric Vehicle Charging Summit: Are EVs the New Smartphones?

Looking back, the advent of the smartphone feels almost like a fever dream. The evolution from home-based landlines to mobile mini supercomputers seems like it happened seamlessly, and most consumers barely remember the challenges of the in-between phases of adoption now that the smartphone is so ubiquitous.

In a recent keynote speech delivered by Andrew Cornelia, CEO of Mercedes-Benz HPC North America, at the widely attended Electric Vehicle Charging Summit & Expo in Las Vegas in March 2024, insightful parallels were drawn between the evolution of smartphone adoption and the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) industry. Both technologies are essential to daily life in different ways and have the ability to create cultural shifts and transform the built environment as we know it.

Cornelia’s address shed light on the trajectory of both technologies, emphasizing the transformative nature of these shifts and the imperative for stakeholders to prioritize quality and user experience. This dialogue sparked the question: in the world of technology adoption, are EVs the new smartphones? And if so, what can we glean from the smartphone’s meteoric trajectory?

Resilience Amidst Change

Cornelia aptly noted that the EV industry is experiencing a significant upswing, despite misleading or sensationalized headlines suggesting downturns and slumps. Much like the resilience displayed by the telecommunications sector during the transition from landline phones to mobile and then smartphones, EV sales are surging despite the narrative, with Mercedes-Benz reporting a remarkable 250 percent increase.

Holding up his smartphone, Cornelia pointed out, “In 2000, half of adult Americans did not own one of these, and half of those individuals had no plans to purchase one. Just a decade later, 9 in 10 of us owned a cell phone.” We may still be in early stages of a complete cultural shift to EVs as the next generation of cars, but the growth statistics underscore the inevitability of an electric future and the need for robust infrastructure to support it.

From Niche to Mainstream

The trajectory of EV adoption mirrors that of smartphones, transitioning from niche products to mainstream essentials. Just as cell phones evolved from being luxury items to indispensable tools in everyday life, EVs are poised to undergo a similar transformation. Cornelia highlighted the rapid expansion of EV ownership, with projections indicating that the majority of new cars sold in America by 2030 will be battery electric vehicles. Sharing anecdotal data from Mercedes-Benz’s own experience as a manufacturer of electric vehicles, Cornelia noted that the company only sold 300 EVs in 2010, while in 2023, the company reached the milestone of 1.2 million EVs sold.

Infrastructure and Experience

Critical to the success of both smartphones and EVs is the infrastructure that supports them. Without fast, reliable mobile networks, the smartphone revolution (and all the ancillary services and industries that cropped up around it) would have never occurred. Cornelia emphasized the importance of not only expanding charging networks but also enhancing the quality and user experience, saying, “The driver and the driver experience will increasingly become what defines success for all of us.” Drawing a parallel to the evolution of cellular networks, where reliability and coverage were paramount, he underscored the need for charging stations to be ubiquitous, reliable, and user-friendly.

Human-Centered Design

At the heart of both technological revolutions lies a focus on enhancing the human experience. Cornelia urged industry stakeholders to prioritize people-centric design, emphasizing the importance of affordability and seamless integration with everyday life. “We have an undeniable bias towards high quality and experiential products, to the point where 86 percent of us are willing to pay more for said products than not,” he acknowledged.

Much like smartphones have become extensions of ourselves, EVs are evolving into more than just modes of transportation—they are becoming integral components of our lifestyles. Beyond their traditional role, EVs are emerging as versatile assets, serving as mobile energy sources, energy storage solutions, interactive technological platforms, and pillars of efficient public transportation systems. This multifaceted evolution underscores the transformative potential of EVs across various sectors, promising to reshape not only how we move but also how we harness and utilize energy resources in an interconnected way.

Looking Ahead

As the EV industry continues to mature, Cornelia issued a challenge to industry leaders and policymakers alike: to push the boundaries of quality and experience. Since its inception, Lynkwell has operated with this perspective in mind, understanding that user experience and the quality of EV infrastructure are crucial components driving the revolution of transportation and sustainability. This cultural and economic shift drives our passion for providing charging solutions and infrastructure that provide a cohesive experience and a seamless fit into the everyday lives of drivers.
By embracing innovation, collaboration and a commitment to user-centric design, Lynkwell and our fellow stakeholders in the industry can pave the way for a future where electric mobility is not just a choice, but a way of life.