At least a dozen electric vehicle startups are suddenly in limbo with dreams of becoming the next Tesla, hoping they can hang on through the coronavirus pandemic for a chance to deliver on their long-shot ambitions.
Building a car company from scratch is extremely challenging and requires billions of dollars in capital. Tesla did it with death but not without a few harrowing brushes. Add the economic uncertainty of a global pandemic, and the stunning collapse of oil prices, and even lower odds of success.
History is littered with automobile impresarios such as Preston Tucker, John DeLorean and Malcolm Bricklin failing.
The breakthrough success of Elon Musk at Tesla shows that it can be done, inspiring a new crop of innovators, each with their own gambit about change-the-world.
Some new players, like Rivian, Nikola, Bollinger, Lordstown Motors, Workhorse and Arrival, focus on electric trucks or commercial vehicles.
Lucid Motors, Byton, Faraday Future, Karma, NIO and Czinger are targeting luxury car plug-in buyers at the high end.
Also in the game: Canoo and Arcimoto, whose EVs will be available for personal use by subscription or rental.
Most had plans to launch in China and the Middle East this year or next with money given by conventional venture capital, or rich backers.
Then the pandemic struck and everything changed.
The cancellation of the world’s largest auto shows in Geneva, New York and Detroit smashed the plans for splashy unveilings by some companies that would have brought a lot of media attention.
Virtual events and social media lack the same magic, making it all the more difficult to get noticed online and create brand awareness.