What would it take to get a person to buy an electric car? The debate rages about range, environmental issues, performance, size, looks, and repair issues. All important topics, but what’s occurred in just 5 years? In 2011 practically zero EVs were available. Five years later, Nissan has sold a quarter million, Tesla has roughly 200,000 sold and 500,000 ordered, and the Chevy Bolt appears to be selling about 1,000 a month. The Fiat 500E sells in the tens of thousands despite CEO Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chief Executive, Sergio Marchionne, begging people not to purchase his car. Don’t even mention the EV capital of the world, China.
All of this is with almost no infrastructure supporting these leading-edge autos in the early days. Parallel to the production of EVs, the building of charging infrastructure has exploded.
I just completed an 8,000 mile road trip from Southwest Florida to Fremont, California. I was primarily using Tesla Superchargers, but also discovered hotels that provided 220V, and even used 110V just for grins and giggles. (I’m asleep, so it doesn’t matter if the car is hooked up all night.) Some of our tourist stops weren’t quite to nowhere, but you could see it from there. There was even a ChargePoint charger in the parking lot of the visitors center in the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. Five years ago, none of this existed.
The creation of charging facilities across the country is astounding considering this note from GM’s CEO, Mary Barra: “We are not actively working on providing infrastructure [for the Bolt EV].” Tesla, on the other hand, considers charging part of the package when you purchase one of its cars. In addition to providing chargers for long-distance travel, Tesla is rolling out urban Superchargers for apartment and condominium residents.
◊ As of this writing, Tesla has 951 Supercharger stations with 6,550 Superchargers, and another 3,000+ Destination chargers.
◊ ChargePoint has more than 40,600 places to charge.
◊ Nissan reports more than 20,000 LEAF-compatible chargers.
◊ Millions of home and garage outlets can also charge an electric car.
Nissan also supports its EV with fast DC chargers at dealerships. EVgo, ChargePoint, Blink, and others are laying out a charging infrastructure for both long distance and local driving. Even Volkswagen will be spending $2 billion over the next 10 years to build out a non-branded charging system across the US.
We can discuss all the old canards attached to EVs — slow, small, short distances, forever to charge. Others point out that EVs have gotten large, incredibly fast, able to leap large countries, and with charging times falling into the minutes instead of hours or days. But does any of this have an effect when it comes to purchasing an EV? To talk about it isn’t the same as experiencing it.
In 2012 I restored a 1994 Chevy S-10 converted to electric by US Electricar. Fifty-two lead acid batteries, 12–14 hours to charge, 60 miles of range, 80 mph top speed, and not quick by any standard. A friend even pretended he had a hand crank to wind it up just to emphasize the point that it wasn’t going to replace his Mustang GT. Today, however, he won’t consider putting that Mustang up against my electric car. Friends ask if I will drive when going out to dinner because they want to ride in an electric car. It would appear that the advantages of EVs are seeping into the public mindset.
Despite the negative news articles, the lawsuits by dealers associations, states banning the sale of cars directly to consumers, and the perceived high purchase cost, more EVs appear on our roads everyday. Since the delivery of the first Tesla Model 3s, three of my acquaintances called informing me they ordered theirs despite no delivery date available.
Neighbors will be the catalyst
What would entice someone to purchase an electric car? Most likely, it will be seeing one in the neighbor’s driveway, realizing that the neighbor never seems to have charging issues or maintenance issues, never makes trips to gas station wonderland, takes long trips, etc. If it works for the neighbor, it might work for me.
Curiosity buys the EV
After the curiosity sets in, as a EV owner, I am more than willing to answer questions about the car. They are amazed I don’t buy gas, that I travel the US, and that I transport two bicycles plus luggage inside when touring. Even in my town, the local press wrote two articles regarding my EV. 40,000 subscribers received a look at how an EV works in real life.
EVs are similar to the rolling stone, picking up momentum to the point where it becomes unstoppable.
Photo Credit: Chargepoint charger at Petrified Forest National Park, US Electricar, and Tesla Model S by Court Nederveld