Electrifying Transport −

100% Electric Vehicles

Published on August 24th, 2015 | by Zach


Electrifying Transport

I was honored to moderate an excellent panel on the topic of “Electrifying Transport” at the recent Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum in Vancouver, Canada. I’ll write articles about each of the presentations from that panel in the coming days, but to kick things off, below is my presentation, which focuses on the #1 barrier to electrification of transport (and also briefly explains several of the key benefits of electric vehicles).

I recorded the whole panel (in quite mediocre quality) on my video camera so that I could share the presentations with all of you. However, the Renewable Cities crew also recorded the audio of the whole session and has published that on YouTube. So, if you want to listen to the whole session now (including the beginning of my intro, where I brag about myself in order to get more EV Obsession and CleanTechnica readers), you can listen here or via the video embedded on the bottom of this article.

If you want to take this panel one presentation at a time and look at the slides, here’s my intro to kick us off (with the slides embedded below the video for even better viewing):

The report I note in the video is one I wrote about here on EV Obsession when it came out. Many times since, I have referenced the point that only 22% of surveyed Americans were “familiar with” (read: “aware of”) the Tesla Model S, and only 31% with the Nissan LEAF. But the thing that really stood out to me as I was watching this presentation again is that under 5% of the respondents were “extremely familiar” with the Model S or LEAF. I’m sure those numbers have risen since then, but by how much? The overall point that the large majority of the population doesn’t really know about the LEAF or Model S, let alone other electric cars, is surely still relevant, and I think that lack of awareness and experience is still the #1 barrier to electrification of transport. But the barrier will come down with time and effort….

Just to hammer home my point a bit more, the next slide (#4) highlighted the point that 30% of the population was reportedly “Very Interested” or “Extremely Interested” in a hypothetical plug-in hybrid electric car that cost $28,000 or less… but there are already plug-in hybrids on the market at about that price, and they are much cheaper than that if you count incentives. Nowhere close to 30% of the population is buying these cars, though. It seems that respondents either didn’t know what they were talking about or still aren’t aware of the plug-in cars on the market. (By the way, it was essentially the same story when it came to their interest in affordable fully electric vehicles.)

I speculated a bit more when discussing slide #5, but I think this next point gets to the heart of the matter. Toyota topped the respondents’ “EV preference by brand,” despite the fact that Toyota offers the lamest plug-in car on the market (in terms of electric range). Basically, I think the point is that respondents were conflating conventional hybrids with plug-in cars, not realizing how different these beasts are and how big the benefits of plug-in electric cars are (particularly, the convenience of home charging and the awesomeness of instant torque).

My last slide (before the ad) put the nail in the coffin, imho. Only about 10% of respondents “completely agree” that “EVs are exciting to drive and own.” Just about anyone who has experience with electric cars knows they are exciting. I can only surmise that the respondents were thinking of conventional hybrids. All of this tells me it’s a case of massively missed messaging, and that’s something I’m trying to help fix.

Check back soon for Part 2 of this series, or just listen to the full panel session below (without the slides, of course).


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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, SCTY, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB. After years of covering solar and EVs, he simply had a lot of faith in these companies and felt like they were good companies to invest in as a portion of his retirement strategy. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

  • Jim Schwarzbach

    “I’m sure those numbers have risen since then, but by how much?”

    Let’s say it just went up by a factor of half, to 7.5%, the following year. At that rate it would get “extremely familiar” to 100% sometime in the year 2022. If you had asked me what I thought about electric cars as recently as six months ago, I would have pointed you to an article a friend wrote six years ago titled, Coal Powered Cars – in other words, I was completely ignorant.

    One day I saw a Tesla drive by in my neighborhood on my way home and it was the coolest car I had ever seen. I didn’t know it was a Tesla, it wasn’t until I saw it again and again that I took note of its front logo and did a Google search for “Car companies that start with T” and eventually found the Tesla website. And as soon as I realized it was an electric car I lost all interest.

    So what happened? I read the Wait But Why article on Artificial Intelligence, and it mentioned Elon Musk, and I had heard of Elon Musk and the Roadster (but didn’t realize that the Roadster was a Tesla) so decided that maybe the EM article would be as interesting as the AI article. And the lightbulb went off – I’ve been obsessed ever since.

    And as more BEVs are sold, each and every new BEV owner will be showing off to his/her friends and family, neighbors and co-workers. Some (many) are going to want a BEV for themselves. In just a month or two we are going to see the first Model Xs roll out and they’re going to be front page news. And more people will become interested in EV and they will start asking questions and finding websites like evobsession and others. And then in 2018 (OK, probably 2019) there will be a flood of Model 3 Teslas sold and the people like myself – fanatics without an EV – will finally be able to afford our own Tesla and we are going to become rather annoying to friends and family as we discuss our new car.

    I’ve already told people that the next car they buy will be their last ICE car – and that’s if they buy in the next 3-5 years. At some point one of the major manufacturers (I predict Ford and/or Hyundai) will go all-in on BEV. Once those floodgates open it is game over for ICE, too bad/so sad for petroleum. Sure there will be a long draw-down, but by 2022 I’m guessing that half the new cars sold will be BEV, and by 2030 ICE car sales will be similar in number to today’s film camera sales.

    • Ha, very interesting story. 😀

      I do think word of mouth, and the media slowly waking up, will be the avenue to growth. But yeah, don’t want to think how much slower it would be without Tesla! And despite all the criticism I’ve seen, I think Tesla nailed it again with the gull-wing doors. They will get a ton of press, eyeballs, & gossip. Plus, whatever those fancy 2nd-row seats are that Elon loves!

      And once people sit in the driver’s seat of an EV, well… spaceship launched. 😀

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