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Published on November 20th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Electric Cars Are Totally Bloody Awesome (Missed Messaging)

November 20th, 2013 by  

Note: This is the first of probably dozens of articles I’ll be publishing from my trip to Barcelona for EVS27 — exclusive interviews, pictures, EV reviews, interesting EV research findings, and more. Stay tuned for some really awesome stuff!

BMW i3 me

BMW i3 electric car and me in Barcelona, one day before my BMW i3 test drive.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Marika Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

I think I test drove 8 electric cars within the past 5 days. Time after time, the #1 thing that came to mind was: “This is so much nicer than a gasmobile. This is f***ing awesome!” You step on the acceleration (maybe we should say, “step on the electricity”) and a smile immediately comes to your face. The quick and powerful yet quiet acceleration is simply awesome. If you step on it enough, it can throw you back, reminding me of the experience in some planes when you take off. It also makes me think of Star Trek, when they jet the starship into a speed beyond light speed. Now that I’m writing this, it of course seems a little crazy, but that’s what came to mind for me on multiple occasions.

Of course, the whole ride is super smooth and super quiet. There is no rumbling engine. It’s definitely one reason why the driving experience of an EV is so much better than the driving experience of a gasmobile.

There’s actually something called “the EV smile” — what people get after or while testing out an electric vehicle. I’ve seen it time after time now, and I’ve had it time after time. An EV owner I talked with at EVS27 said that he still gets it. In the link above, you can read about another EV owner who still gets it. I’m pretty sure I’ll have it for years.

The frustrating thing is that this top EV selling point is hardly ever mentioned in advertising or EV promotion. One of the reasons for this is that EVs are much, much greener than gasmobiles. Also, they allow you to cut gasoline out of your personal life (as well as the unpleasant cost of fueling up). These are huge EV benefits that those in the industry have assumed they need to center their advertising around. It’s not a horrible assumption, but I think its also not the best.

People want to be greener. People want to cut oil out of their lives and would love to never have to visit a gas station again. However, these are not things that the majority of people base their purchasing decisions on.

People base their purchasing decisions on desire, emotion, thrill, love. EVs are amazing to drive. When it comes to the pleasure of driving, the excitement of driving — EVs trump gasmobiles. What EV producers and EV advocates need to be doing is telling people how much more enjoyable driving an EV is. Show them — through videos of people driving an EV for the first time, or after driving an EV for the first time; through videos of EV owners, the majority of whom don’t intend to ever go back to gasmobiles.

In a lot of cases, people who get an EV intend for it to be a supplemental second car. However, once they own it, it generally ends up being the car everyone in the family wants to drive, and many families will move on and drop their gasmobile for another EV or PHEV.

I had the pleasure of talking with one major EV leader (who I won’t name at this moment) while at EVS27. He related a story to me that reiterates the awesomeness of EVs well. He owns a Chevy Volt, and a relative of his got to know about the Chevy Volt through him. The relative eventually decided to buy one. Now, this EV leader notes that his relative “can’t shut up about the car.” It’s a story that many of you have probably lived through.

happiest drivers chevy volt

In a number of presentations at EVS27, it was emphasized that what is needed for EVs to hit “the big time” in a regional or national market is simply greater awareness about the cars. Incentives are helpful, charging stations are helpful, extending range and reducing costs are helpful, but the often-unacknowledged and perhaps biggest factor is simply raising EV awareness.

This was emphasized, for example, in a presentation about Norway’s tremendous EV leadership — the geographically large, dispersed, and cold country is the global leader in EVs per capita. Sure, Norway has some incentives for EVs, but so do numerous other countries. Sure, Norway has a decent and growing network of EV charging stations, but so do many other places. What Norway’s population has — probably more than the population of any other country — is a broader and deeper EV awareness. As a result, the Tesla Model S was the top-selling car (of any kind) in Norway in September, and the Nissan Leaf was the top-selling car (of any kind) in Norway in October. There’s no reason other countries can’t replicate Norway’s success.

Long story short: Help to spread the total awesomeness of driving electric vehicles. People are attracted to fun, awesomeness, and excitement. Electric cars offer all of these things, way more than gasmobiles. If people are pulled in by this buzz (and they will be much more so than by EVs’ green props or oil-free selling point), they will look to try out an EV for themselves. Once they try out an EV, they are quite likely to be impressed and to want to own an EV. Once they own an EV, they are quite likely to want to drive it rather than a gasmobile, and even get rid of any gasmobiles in their garage.

Awesomeness is what turned Apple into a giant. It’s what makes people wait in line outside for the next Apple product. Awesomeness is what made gaming consoles commonplace. Awesomeness is what makes sports such a popular pastime, and even something people are obsessed with watching. Awesomeness will lead to EVs taking over the automobile market. The question is, “how soon?” It’s all about awareness. Many or most people you know probably can’t even name an electric car or know about Tesla Motors. You’d be surprised. And most of them, even if they know that much, surely know very little about electric vehicles and probably don’t have a clue that electric vehicles are awesome to drive. That needs to change. Help to spread the word!

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I’ll have much more from EVS27 coming your way in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Martin

    Zach, yes EV’s are bloody awesome, they are used on two planets, EARTH and MARS and our MOON.
    And they will work with out air. (oxygen)

    • Bob_Wallace

      Please, no all-caps.

      • Martin

        Just was trying to get a point across. 😉
        Are those facts incorrect?

        • Bob_Wallace

          Facts am facts.

          All cap posting is not appreciated.

          If you feel a need to emphasize a word or phrase use the html “strong /strong”.

  • jfreed27

    I am a Leaf man. Why doesn’t Nissan advertise.? Showing that ev smile might be enough.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Has Nissan advertised the Leaf in the past and now stopped advertising?

      (I don’t watch TV so have no clue what has been going on.)

  • blackandwhiteohana

    i3? Yuck.

    That’s like getting excited driving a Prius for the first time…

  • Peter T from Oz

    Unfortunately, when I read such articles it just makes me cry in my soup as Australia has become a pariah and backwater when it comes RE and EVs. In relation to EVs we have no incentives and lack an installed base of reliable charging stations to speak of. Better Place was suppose to set up shop here in Oz but they pulled out for some reason. Anyway, without adequate charging stations between and within our big cities it just prohibits the real uptake of EVs like the Leaf and Tesla. There is chicken and egg here. Hopefully things will improve but unfortunately current politics at a Federal level is getting in the way of real progress.

  • StevesWeb

    I agree 100% about the joy of driving an EV. In particular I like my little Spark EV a bit more than the Leaf I test drove, but in both cases the cars are so quiet and pressing the Volt Pedal™ makes them just suddenly go faster. While a gas pedal causes a car to make a lot more noise and gradually start going faster, with a Volt Pedal the response seems almost instantaneous – and quiet. I am liking very much electric car, make more!

  • bruce dp

    >I test drove 8 electric cars within the past 5 days
    The writer sounds like he had as much fun as I did when I was reporting at EVS-12 in the 90’s when EVs were really new, and so was the Internet.

    BTW, that “the EV smile”, is actually much more than that. The EV community had been calling it an “EV grin” starting way back in those days, when if you wanted an EV, you either built one, or had one built for you (there were no production EVs being sold at that time).

    An EV grin shows much more pleasure than just a smile
    It also refers to how addictively fun driving an EV is.

    A Volt is not an EV, it is a plug-in-hybrid (phev/pih) which can be driven in electric-only mode, but for a shorter distance than an EV. pih have their own advantages and disadvantages.

    The public needs to learn about plugins (the term is used for both EVs and pih), and look at their driving needs. Then get free rides in plugins at your local EAAev.org Chapter or EV organization. There are free forums on all the vehicles where you can get answers from owners. QnA with owners is much better than at a dealer who only wants to make a sale. A few Enterprise and Hertz offices have plugins that can be rented for a week, so you will have actual/practical experience before deciding.

    Once the public is knowledgeable of plugins, they can make up their own minds whether an EV or pih will suit their needs, or they are better off sticking with a high mpg fuel car and rising fuel prices.

    • Thanks for the history! 😀 Unfortunately, next EVS is in South Korea — not sure if I’ll make it for that one. We’ll see.

      Regarding the Volt: I use “EV” inclusively, with PHEV’s being a sub-category. I’d switch to “plugins” but I just don’t think that term is very catchy and sounds too much like industry jargon.

  • Chris_in_Raleigh

    So today, my wife had the EV, so I had to drive the gas car. I was in a hurry, the fuel gauge was on Empty, and I didn’t have time to go get gas first. That never happens in the EV which is always on Full when I leave the house.

    Yet another reason we love our EV (a Nissan Leaf).

    • Man, that’s one to share.
      As Jay Leno said while driving the Mission RS, what if EVs came first? How inconvenient and unpleasant would we find so many things about gasmobiles!

      • Eletruk

        Well, actually, EVs did come first. In the early 1900s there were more EVs on the road than gasmobiles. Due to huge inconveniences that having a gasmobile had (dealing with questionable gas, have to manually turn over the engine, noisy, smelly, smoky, oily/greasy, high maintenance and restrictive laws) EVs were great. However, over the years all those issues were resolved and EVs main drawback (range) became really apparent.

        • Yes, yes, I know, and sure Jay does, too. Think the point was just if the roles were reversed today.

        • neroden

          There are actually two other historical points which people forget:
          — in the early 1900s, *rural areas did not have electricity*. In the US, they weren’t electrified until FDR did rural electrification as part of the New Deal in the 1930s.

          — gasoline was a *waste product* of kerosene refining, which had to be given away or burnt in pits, and as such it was *insanely cheap*. Not like today.

  • JamesWimberley

    Norway is cold, rich and high-minded.

    • Jouni Valkonen

      In Norway they understand what is the true value of oil. It is just foolish to burn oil in gas mobiles. It is far better for the economy to export all oil that is available.

    • I brought up the rich thing in the Q&A session, as well as the way a technology’s sales start to grow much faster at a certain level of market saturation. However, the speaker from Nissan still emphasized that a lot of Norway’s success simply comes down to awareness that has come about through many different initiatives and policies.

    • Ceci Pipe

      Old comment, but they’re rich because instead of diverting money from everything else into natural resources like other countries do, they made the oil work for them. Canada subsidises oil, Australia subsidises coal, Norway sells oil.

      Understanding that oil is better as an export than an internal plaything helps too.

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