As someone who is passionate about reducing our carbon footprint, I have been eagerly following the development of EVs (electric vehicles). However, as I consider the magnitude of the changes required to transition from ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles to EVs, I believe that this transformation should happen gradually over time. The impact of this shift is far-reaching and will require the collaboration of many stakeholders. While the intention is noble, the public sector and the current administration’s establishment of ambitious carbon initiatives and timelines for the transition could do more harm than good.
No Supply, No Demand, No EV Sales
Although OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are committed to transitioning from ICE vehicles to EVs, inventory shortages are a widespread issue across the country. Typically, when EVs are built and shipped to dealers, they are delivered to CARB states (states that meet requirements for emissions policies set by California Air Resources Board). As a result, many consumers are left waiting for over a year before they receive their brand-new EV. Unfortunately, this has led to a loss of interest in EVs on both the consumer and dealer side – where there is no inventory to sell and no desire to wait that long for a car.
This complication to supply and demand is not the only barrier to EV sales. Selling and servicing EVs is an entirely different beast than ICE sales and servicing. EVs have extremely heavy batteries, more integrated technology, and clients with entirely different motivations and needs. These differences have left many dealers unequipped for an onslaught of EV customers. To address this issue, OEMs are training and certifying dealerships for EV sales, ensuring that dealerships can educate, sell, and service EV consumers. However, these certifications come at a great cost, including changes to service areas, the addition of charging stations, and new training for staff in EV technology.
Despite the collaboration between dealerships and OEMs on training, certifications, and modifications, local dealerships still aren’t advertising EV products due to the lack of products available on the market.
If You Build It, They Might Come
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Above all else, our infrastructure must be prepared for the EV transformation before it happens, not after. Like it or not, we must solve the problem of EV charging before most consumers are willing to leap from ICE to EV. Depending on where you live and your daily commute distance, EVs may not be a practical vehicle choice, especially when mileage remains an issue. Presently, most consumers who were willing to buy EVs were capable of doing so because they could charge at home or work and had short commutes. For consumers with longer commutes and who cannot charge at work, public charging stations are necessary.
Even with public charging stations available, many consumers might still be unwilling due to charging time. Currently, adding 60-90 minutes of charging time to your commute or every time you make a pit stop on a road trip is an ugly reality. These charging times are neither practical nor acceptable if we push for a complete switch from ICE to EV across America. What we need are rapid chargers that are reliable and charge as quickly as you could fill up a gas tank. We all know that time is a valuable resource, and most cannot afford to waste it.
Driving Off the “Third Vehicle Lot”
My discussions with dealers and consumers have brought up a common theme: While many are enthusiastic about the technology, EVs are viewed as a third vehicle. The majority of EV customers only invest in EVs if they have reliable primary ICE vehicles they can use for daily commutes and road trips. Not only are EVs expensive, but many consumers are hesitant to pay an additional $2,000 for a home charger. Further, current EV batteries have a life span of 7-8 years and cost between $25k and $30k, leaving many drivers to give up on an EV that needs servicing rather than pay for repairs. In other words, EVs are luxury items, depending on your location and annual salary, not useful and functional tools for the masses.
More and more, the EV market begs us to question which comes first: the chicken or the egg? Is it possible or practical to build up more inventory than demand requires so that we can assist dealers, make EVs more accessible, drive down costs, and eventually reach the goal of EV penetration set by our administration? Until more vehicles are produced, there will not be a significant increase in adoption. But also, the public infrastructure such as the energy grid, roads, bridges, and public charging infrastructure must also greatly improve.
Game-Changing Shift in EV Market
To this end, Tesla has announced a game-changing shift in the EV market with the introduction of their $35k EVs that align with what average income earners can afford. However, the reality check requires more than just OEMs manufacturing EVs and dealerships transforming to sell them. It calls for a commitment to creating an entirely new infrastructure: improving the electrical grids, widespread environmentally-safe procedures for battery disposal and recycling, realistic pricing for EVs, and understanding how roads and parking facilities can handle the increased weight of these vehicles.
We Have Speed, Now We Need Reliability
There are countless factors that are propelling the transition from gas to electric vehicles. It is inspiring to see the excitement and potential for these vehicles and the future of automotive and mobility. With changing consumer preferences in transportation and shopping habits, the shopping experience today is drastically different than when I purchased my first car in 1985. However, I must admit that I am uncertain if the infrastructure is fully prepared for a complete shift to electric transportation. We must ensure the safety of our consumers while making EVs affordable and practical for everyone.
The success of this transition will be judged not just by its speed, but by its safety, efficacy, and overall impact on society. As we move forward, we must ensure that the changes we make are realistic, sensible, sustainable, and lasting. We need to pursue steady, incremental change that will pave the way for a faster and more successful transition overall. This is a collaborative effort, and we must work together to achieve our shared goal.
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