Electric Vehicles: To Drive or Not To Drive? or Are We There Yet?

Historically, electric vehicles have been portrayed as the high tech ambition of the future.  The technology for these cars has been around for over a century and has evolved tremendously in recent years, yet still hasn’t quite made it.  Batteries are more sophisticated, longer lasting and energy dense, and there is more availability of charging stations and vehicles options. However, we still see hybrid and electric car sales as an extremely small percentage of the total market share.

Why? The simple answer: convenience.

American culture is accustomed to convenience, from grocery delivery to diet pills, and electric vehicles are perceived as less convenient than their gas powered counterparts.  Some drivers also have “range anxiety” of being stranded if their vehicle charge is insufficient to make it to the next charging station.

However, there are now more options available to drivers with charging stations located along highways and popular consumer hotspots.  For example, Simon Malls proudly equips many of their parking lots with charging stations, and Connecticut recently made a push for EV infrastructure, locating several stations near commuter rails.  There are currently more chargers in the US from ChargePoint than there are McDonald’s locations, and HEVO power recently launched a wireless EV charging solution utilizing a mobile app, wireless receiver, and power station to simplify the process.  Battery swapping offers another quick, easy and practical service for the American consumer in the future.  For a fee, EV owners can swap their drained batteries for fully charged ones in less time than it takes to refill a car with gasoline.

Furthermore, there are websites and mobile apps that allow consumers quick and easy access to the nearest charging station across the nation.  Users can filter by charge type and area code to find the nearest location through various outlets, such as CarStations or ChargePoint.

Part of the problem is marketing. Manufacturers need to advertise these available options to attract fringe consumers to this growing market. It’s also important to change some of the dialogue surrounding the industry.

For example, there are concerns about the safety of lithium-ion batteries that are used in many of these cars despite the fact that fires or explosions are rare and motor companies take great measures to account for the safety of their vehicles.  The media pays special attention to these accidents, which exaggerates the problem.  One recent instance was July 4th crash involving Tesla’s Model S received international media coverage even though the driver of the car survived.  To combat this fear, Tesla recently implemented underbody shields to protect against battery fires on all new models and offers a retrofit option to older models for free.

When the Nissan Leaf first came to the market in 2010, there were several shortcomings in the original model. Nissan made adjustments based on customer requests, including those regarding aesthetics and charger preference settings, and the Leaf is now the world’s best selling EV.  As of April 2014, over 110,000 Leafs have been sold globally, with an 84-mile range and a per-mile cost that is one-fifth to one-half the cost of a gasoline-fueled car.

Fortunately, consumer perception is evolving, as is the industry itself.  Vehicle style and design has improved, and manufacturers market these products first and foremost as high quality and enjoyable to drive rather than relying on emissions reductions.  Nissan promotes the top selling Leaf as “100% Electric. 100% Fun.”

While there are valid concerns associated with electric vehicles, the industry is flexible in identifying these issues and making timely adjustments.  Hopefully with time, that will be enough to perpetuate and expedite the trend of market growth, and we will see many more of electric vehicles on the road in the coming years.

Written by

Danielle is a partner and Senior Account Executive for Eco Branding. She is passionate about bringing her communications expertise to the cleantech industry. Danielle has over 7 years of public relations experience in different industries. She has a B.A. from the University of Maryland in Communication and Psychology with a focus in Public Relations. Danielle is a guest contributor for Renewable Energy World and Alternative Energy Magazine. Based in New York, Danielle enjoys hiking, camping, music and good beer!