BPIThis post is sponsored by The Business of Plugging In conference.

Developing and bringing to market a plug in electric vehicle (PEV) is extremely challenging. It requires hundreds of thousands of engineering hours, costly prototypes, research and development of new technologies, and a reliance on relatively unproven technology. This effort leads to a costly and time consuming development process. While difficult, several companies have successfully brought PEVs to market. While these products have established a tiny toehold in the market, they are far from being viable mass market entries.

The next challenge is to develop mass market, profitable PEVs. In essence, the stakeholders—vehicle manufacturers, component suppliers, battery developers, electric utility providers, and government—must create a long-term business model for “plugging in.”

The Gartner hype cycle describes an (arguably) common pathway for new technology development. The cycle contains; a Technology Trigger, a Peak of Inflated Expectations, a Trough of Disillusionment, a Slope of Enlightenment, and a Plateau of Productivity. While the applicability of the hype cycle is always debatable, the basic concept is relevant to the PEV discussion. The PEV has been through several hype cycles and has yet to reach beyond the trough of disillusionment. The most recent one started five years ago and certainly went through the first three stages. Technology startups and investors are now wondering when—or if—we will reach the Slope of Enlightenment. This time though, things appear to be falling into place.

It’s essential to consider PEVs as a possible solution to the personal mobility challenge. However, it is equally essential for The Business of Plugging In Conferencestakeholders to work together to create a business model for plugging in. The Center for Automotive Research will host the third annual Business of Plugging In conference (BPI) October 11-13 in Dearborn, MI. BPI 2011 will bring together stakeholders to address the challenge—and opportunity—of creating a viable, economically sustainable PEV market.

This article was written by Brett Smith, Director of Automotive Analysis Group, Center for Automotive Research.

GreenBeat Exclusive: Until 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 14, BPI is offering a discount of $200 exclusively to GreenBeat readers. To take advantage of this offer, please call Angie Ely (734.929.0496) or fax your registration form, and mention “GreenBeat.” In the meantime, follow the intelligent PEV discussion on Twitter.