Venture Capitalist Sees BEVs Gaining Ground Globally
Marco Marinucci, co-founder and lead partner of Hella Ventures, is cautiously optimistic about the future of electric technologies and connected cars.
“I’m naturally optimistic,” says Marinucci, whose San Francisco-based company is the venture capital arm of Hella, the German automotive lighting maker, and has been involved in startups such as Wejo, AEye and Oculii.
“The only thing I’m betting on is generational change,” he told Wards in an interview. “I see very few millennials or Gen Zers saying that climate change isn’t real.
“No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, denying science shouldn’t be part of politics.”
Speaking on investment opportunities at recent CAR Management Briefing seminars, Marinucci said: “The industry is on the right track for electric vehicles. That happens. Is it a better technology than hydrogen? It’s a complex discussion. Is it better than fossil fuels? Absolutely. But only if the energy we produce is clean.
Marinucci (photo below left) expresses concern about the June Supreme Court ruling that limits the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
“There are things the court should stay out of,” he says. “They took a pretty powerful tool away from the EPA. The agency has other tools, but it’s now basically Congress and, as we all know, Congress has had a hard time getting an agreement.
“But it is clear that there is no point in driving electric vehicles if the electricity is generated by coal. The combustion efficiency of coal is low and the amount of CO2 emitted is immense. something where compromise makes sense.
Despite his concerns, Marinucci is generally optimistic about electrification and related technologies.
“Generally speaking, you can’t go wrong researching these technologies because the world needs them. Same with charging. You can’t really go wrong. It is much more difficult when you think of recycling because it is more difficult to determine the dominant players in the market.
Marinucci predicts that the United States will have a fleet of approximately 50 million electric vehicles in 2030, 100 million in 2035, and 150 million in 2040. “And most parts of the world will follow a similar adoption rate,” says- he, adding the cumulative investment in charging by 2040 will exceed $1 trillion globally, which is approximately 350-500 million chargers.
“Most OEMs have already changed their R&D and roadmaps to focus 100% on electric vehicles,” he says. “This means that to meet the demands for charging infrastructure in the United States, the deployment rate must increase by 500% in 2025 compared to the rate in 2021. This is a huge opportunity for new entrants on the market.”
Asked if the deep political divide in the United States could hamper efforts to advance the adoption of battery electric vehicles, Marinucci says, “At least for now, the regulatory environment is set to so as not to have combustion engines by 2035. At this point, 2035, it will no longer be a political question. But you are right to be concerned that these technologies are currently associated with the (political) left and because of that some people will be against it.
What kinds of battery improvements are needed to end our reliance on internal combustion engines?
“We need another breakthrough battery technology that makes batteries 30% cheaper than today and increases real range to 350 miles (564 km),” he said. “We also need a high-powered recharge that allows us to recharge to 80% capacity in 20 minutes and is within an hour of our physical location, including waiting time.
“If all of that isn’t there, adoption will be much slower,” he says.
Does Marinucci think these goals can be achieved?
“If companies like General Motors and Volkswagen commit to not selling internal combustion engine cars after 2035, it will be difficult to reverse those commitments once we reach 2026 or 2027.”
But isn’t America’s penchant for full-size pickup trucks and SUVs another troublesome factor?
“I’ve never owned a pickup,” he says, “but when I see the new Hummer with a ‘crab-steer’ mode capable of producing up to 1,000 horsepower and going from zero to 60 in less than four seconds is American muscle with technology.I think if you present it the right way, politics will be less of a factor.