you, see The Tesla Model 3 Isn’t That Popular
Most Americans aren’t interested in electric vehicles. That’s a cold fact.
I’m won’t cite a bunch of statistics (that may seem encouraging but actually are not). Just look around you.
2020 is almost here but it’s still wall-to-wall gas cars. And it’s not just inertia. All those new cars are gas too.
My neighborhood in Los Angeles is a very rare exception with more than its fair share Model 3 owners as well as a small Chevy Volt and Bolt presence. But leave my neighborhood and travel to other locations around the U.S. and EVs pretty much vanish.
Yes, the Model 3 is a hit and has topped 500,000 cumulative registrations
but it’s not that popular. I mean it’s not the car that’s going to bring average car-buying Americans into the EV fold in large numbers. The price alone limits its appeal.
Why are EVs unpopular?
My experience as an early EV adopter (2013 Volt) has been that on average people see EVs as exotic, weird cars. Certainly not for them. It means straying from a critical comfort zone. The gas-car paradigm has worked for a 100 years, it works for them now and that’s good enough, thank you. And many have vague, uninformed fears about range and running out of juice on the way to the store.
Or to put it another way, old habits are just too hard to break.
Remember, I’m talking about the average car buy. Someone who just wants to get reliably from A to B.
As the head of electrification for Ford, the questions I get from family, friends and colleagues about electric vehicles run the gamut. “Are electric vehicles fast?” “Do they work in winter?” “Can I really give up visiting the gas station?” “Are they capable enough to help me do my job?”
–Education is a Critical Missing Piece to the Electric Vehicle Puzzle; Here’s How Ford is Going to Help Solve It, Ted Cannis, Global Director, Electrification, Ford Motor Company, September 5, 2019
Ford’s Cannis cites an interesting statistic: “Forty-two percent of Americans think electric vehicles still require gas to run.” That shows how little many Americans know about EVs. Or they think all EVs are basically a Toyota Prius (which is even worse).
Again, I think it’s a lack of curiosity. Because a quick Google search would disabuse people of most mistaken notions in 15 minutes.
From my personal experience, it’s palpable disinterest. Many times I’ve tried to educate friends, family, strangers about EVs and their eyes just glaze over. Their expression says it all: I’ll be polite and listen but I’m not interested.
But you’ll never go back
That said, almost to a person, anyone I know who has bought an EV will never go back. You can refuel at home, no more trips to the gas station, very little maintenance, no oil changes, no toxic fumes, clean, quiet, fast, great torque — to mention a few.
But that seemingly common sense argument doesn’t mean you can convince others.
Infrastructure weak link
Charging infrastructure is sometimes brought up by the few that actually have done the research. They typically have a budding interest in EVs but balk for practical reasons. For example, they may not have ready access to a plug at home if they live in the city. And they have a point. For the non-Tesla crowd (me) that’s still a huge issue. While I charge (2018 Chevy Bolt) mostly at home, there are still many times when I need to charge on the road.
Even in the great EV Mecca of Los Angeles DC fast chargers (which is the only charging I can tolerate on the road) are still few and far between. And the fast charging pumps that are available are often taken. That means waiting 10, 15 or sometimes 30 minutes for a charger. That’s on top of the time it takes to charge.
Do you have an hour or longer to refuel your car? I didn’t think so.
That can be a powerful counterargument for those who have an interest in EVs but need to charge outside of their home.
Dealerships aren’t helping: they’re geared toward moving a lot gas engine cars
Dealerships in the U.S. are franchises. That 100-year-old business model wants to sell maintenance. EVs – which I can testify to – require very little maintenance. I’ve gone a year and half without any maintenance. And I could’ve gone longer. When I do get maintenance done, it’s typically nothing more than rotating the tires.
That’s a disincentive for traditional dealers.
The PR lie of “we’re going all electric!”
On the one hand, you have the media constantly hyping automakers’ grand plans for EVs (e.g., “the internal combustion engine is finally dying”) But on the other, you have the stark reality of actually going to a dealer and getting a rude surprise. “Hmm…I still see a sea of gas cars…where are all those EVs I keep reading about?” – or something along those lines.
Tesla is doing its part. But the rest of the industry is not. Just look at General Motors. Despite being the original pioneer with the EV1 in 1997, it still can’t muster selling more than a thousand or so EVs in August 2019, more than 20 years later. That’s pretty pathetic, in my opinion.
Go to many Chevy dealers and you’ll still see Bolts hidden behind a phalanx of Silverados, Suburbans, Equinoxes, and Corvettes. The company and its franchises just aren’t interested in selling lots of EVs.
Will this change with the bevy of new EV announcements from Volkswagen, Porsche, Honda et al? Maybe. But I doubt it. Car companies are good at talking up their grand plans for EVs but falter, so far, when it comes to actually manufacturing them and selling them.
It’s a PR game. “Look, we’re going all-electric by [insert year]!” Meanwhile they keep pushing gas cars.
It will take a critical mass to make EVs anything close to mainstream. At that point, even the most skeptical will take the dive when it becomes a FOMO thing and their best friend gets a flashy EV brimming with the latest tech.
But that may be a long way off. Until there’s a lot more push (lots of attractive EVs on all dealer lots) from the industry and pull from consumers, the only EVs most consumers will ever drive is the golf cart at their local country club.
“Tesla just registered another batch of 16,231 Tesla Model 3 VIN numbers, which brings the total for the quarter to 100,899 (compared to 99,445 in Q2) and the cumulative number to 536,788.” – InsideEVs, September 21, 2019.
The Volt is technically a plug-in hybrid. But there wasn’t much of a choice in early 2013 for an EV with long range.
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