My friend Sasha scoffed as we sipped lattes for our Sunday morning ritual. Across the table, Brian just shrugged, confident in his claim. “You'll see. Soon even your parents are going to want one. Top Gear is just lying.”
I watched the exchange between my two friends, familiar with this discussion by now.
See, this was in 2011, and we were debating electric cars. More specifically, the Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) Roadster – the first highway-legal electric car series you could purchase from a company. By then, the car had been on the market for about three years, and we had seen the Top Gear episode that implied the shiny-new vehicle was defective (the reason Tesla sued Top Gear).
We were fascinated by what this tech meant for our futures, so I ended up routinely discussing it with my 20-something friends over coffee.
After all, it was practically something out of a sci-fi novel – a peppy sports car that ran solely on lithium batteries. It was like some exciting science experiment you could test for yourself if you had $101,500 to spare.
Sasha was convinced the entire industry would crash and burn – she didn't think people wanted to spend over $100,000 to own an unreliable car they had to charge “like an iPod.”
And she was right – at least about the Tesla Roadster's brief lifespan.
It was on the market for about four years and fewer than 2,500 were sold. It was a failure for the most part. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk said so.
But, as is often the case, the failure helped pave the road for a success story of epic proportions.
See, the Roadster launched Tesla on a trajectory that has pushed its stock up 1,081% in the past five years. The Tesla brand is now routinely blared across the headlines of major news sites. And Tesla's success is only just beginning, despite the bumpy road – it's the most shorted stock on Wall Street right now due to the fears that have always surrounded innovative tech in its infancy.
That success is just one indicator of how this technology is set to utterly revolutionize the car market, despite what my pessimistic friend Sasha predicted.
See, electric cars are already capturing the imaginations of people around the globe.
In fact, the bank UBS forecasts that electric vehicles will make up 14% of global car sales by 2025, up from today's 1%. Countries are wisely preparing for this shift in the car market: Australia is already gearing up to build the world's longest “electric highway” – spanning 1,250 miles and sporting 18 stations. Better yet, France and the U.K. both recently announced that they're banning gas-powered cars by 2040.
And brands and governments are increasingly working together to bring this piece of green energy into the mainstream by offering incentives: For example, BMW and Nissan just started offering discounts to San Diego residents that – when paired with a federal tax credit of as much as $7,500 and a state rebate of $2,500 – knock $20,000 off the cost of a new electric car.
To top it off, Volvo declared that starting in 2019, it will only make electric or hybrid cars.
Meanwhile, the technology continues to develop by leaps and bounds: Top Gear recently drove the highly anticipated Tesla Model S about 670 miles on a single charge – although I admit it was in unrealistic conditions considering it was driven in the summer with the AC off. Not something I could do in South Florida without dying of heat stroke.
But this powerful machinery is why many experts have reserved one of these bad boys for themselves. For comparison's sake, the standard Tesla Model S 100D lasts about 300-odd miles. And that was already impressive.
As countries continue to diminish the burden of owning an electric car, the tech keeps evolving and institutions focus on making it miles more affordable – many of the hurdles for this innovative lithium-powered technology are falling by the wayside.
All of this goes to show how shortsighted electric-car (and Tesla) naysayers are.
So, as an investor, if you haven't entered this market, now is absolutely the time to start researching the tech-based opportunities that will be sure to benefit. You don't want to be left behind as the next great car revolution races ahead.