rEVolution — What Will The Main Drivers Be?

Originally published on the EV-Box/rEVolution blog.

I’ve been covering the electric vehicle industry obsessively for several years now. I’ve published thousands of articles on this tech. Yet, a few old articles from years ago still stand out to me and often come to mind.

I had been covering electric vehicles (EVs) for quite a while before I actually drove one. Once I finally did drive one, I was blown away by the tremendous fun of instant torque. I thought, “How is this so routinely ignored?! Electric cars are bloody awesome!” In words I typed back in 2013 after that experience: “This is so much nicer than a gasmobile. This is f***ing awesome!”

Ever since then, I have presumed that the fun and useful instant torque of electric cars — especially combined with their beautiful silence and smooth drive quality — meant electric cars would be a disruptive technology that would quickly take over the market — once enough people experienced them. This is a chart I have often used since then to show how previous disruptive technologies have evolved on the marketplace:

Here’s another version of the chart — which comes from Nicholas Felton of the New York Times — but without my highlights:

As you can see, growth often seems tame at the beginning, but as soon as a certain level of popular awareness is reached and the right price point is met, Bam!

As it turned out, after I presented the case that instant torque was the #1 reason electric cars were a disruptive technology and would dominate the auto market, I read an article claiming that something else was the #1 reason. The article argued that it was actually the supreme convenience of electric cars that would be the #1 driver of large-scale EV adoption. It was a good argument, and I think it might be more compelling than the instant torque one.

As it turns out, after years of covering electric cars, I’ve come up with 30 big electric car benefits. With so many benefits on the table, I continuously wonder, “What will drive the industry forward the most, the fastest?”

I recently completed a 90-page report on electric cars based on >2000 surveys of electric car drivers in 26 European countries, 49 of 50 US states, and 9 of 13 Canadian provinces. Naturally, there’s a broad range of interesting findings from these surveys, but one of the most interesting topics for me is still the benefits of EVs and the question, “What are the main reasons people are going electric?” Similarly, “What will be the main adoption drivers as the market matures and expands?”

As part of that, I have been curious to examine whether EV owners give more value to the EV benefits mentioned above (or other benefits) after they get an EV compared to what they thought before they had one. In other words, if “instant torque” and “greater convenience” weren’t top reasons for buying an EV in the first place, did these factors climb to the top of their EV benefits list once they experienced life with an EV?

Leaking some of our findings (the report isn’t yet published), I’ll share some results on these topics.

First of all, consistent with previous research (including research from EV-Box), the largest number of respondents indicated that the “environmental benefit” of electric cars was their main reason for getting an EV.

However, many other respondents brought an EV home primarily because of their love for new tech, the financial savings, the fun instant torque, or other reasons.

Asking EV drivers what their 3 favorite things about driving electric were, we further identified love for the instant torque, the smooth and quiet drive, the convenience of home charging, and several other big user benefits.

It’s nice to see so many people are passionate enough about protecting our climate and air that they switched to EVs primarily to protect our environment, but I think we should all recognize that the percentage of the population that makes purchasing decisions based on that topic is fairly small. We need EVs to offer much more in order for them to dominate the industry — and they do offer much more.

Luckily, electric cars have so many strong user benefits that they should catch on quickly once the mass market becomes aware of these benefits. I doubt the “green” benefits will be the top advertising focus of electric car manufacturers for much longer, and as much as I think that’s a sad result of lack of foresight among the general populace, it’s a great thing, since that means electric cars will soon see the kind of dramatic market growth that we have seen other disruptive technologies achieve.

I thought in the year 2000 that I’d never have a cell phone. I got one a few years later. I imagine many people who today think they’ll never have an electric car will have one within the next 3–10 years. I can’t see any convincing reasons why they wouldn’t.

Attend my keynote presentation at rEVolution 2017 in Amsterdam on March 14.

3 thoughts on “rEVolution — What Will The Main Drivers Be?

  1. Great research. There may be a “100th monkey” phenomenon of mass adoption around the corner for the electric car. If you look at how advertising works, a product always sells better if you sex it up. You can sell X of a perfectly good and functional product, but if you have a beautiful woman suggesting you buy it sales to to X².

    It seems that if there is a visceral reaction in play people are pulled toward the item. I’m not sure what the visceral component will be with electric cars, but afterwards the people who buy in will tell you they bought it for the green aspects… and the torque!

  2. EV’s need to reach a critical mass or tipping point which will be achieved when charging infrastructure is in place, cars can do 500km+ and cost $30-$50k. A further kicker will be if oil prices stay inflated, and if governments genuinely get behind and back this green solution. There is no doubt that it will come, but some of those factors will influence how fast it happens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *