You may remember that I published an article at the end of December regarding the #1 reason I think electric cars are a disruptive technology and will come to dominate the car market much faster than most “experts” think. I think the whole article is worth a read (otherwise, I wouldn’t have written it), but the very short summary is: electric cars offer a much better driving experience. The article I just published an hour ago carries forward that idea, and is focused around Jeremy Grantham saying essentially the same thing.
However, I recently ran across another article with essentially the same title as that first one linked above — “The One Reason Tesla Motors, Inc. and Electric Vehicles Will Dethrone Gas-Powered Vehicles” — but it focuses on a different benefit of electric cars. There are many tremendous benefits of electric cars, and I think the one on which this lady, Beth McKenna, focuses is the #2 reason why electric cars will quickly come to dominate the car market, but perhaps she’s right and it is actually the #1 reason.
Before sharing the argument for this, I will quickly quote someone from the GM-Volt.com forum (a comment I’m going to come back to in a separate article):
Was charging my Volt at a Chevy dealership and was talking to a senior salesman. Apparently he had a Volt for a few years and traded it in for CTS in recent months, he missed the Volt the first time he went to the gas station…
I asked him if he wanted to go Cadillac why not the ELR? He said it was not yet out and did not anticipate the unpleasantness of going back to gas. He had serious buyers remorse… He wished he waited for the ELR…
Yep, that’s a sure sign of a far superior product, as is the comment I hear repeatedly from male EV owners: “We got another electric car because my wife took away my [insert one of the following: Tesla Model S, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf…].”
I believe there is one reason it is highly likely that EVs — with Tesla leading the way — will take the passenger-vehicle mantle from ICE vehicles: convenience. (Down the road, perhaps, EVs might be dethroned, and it would be terrific for us all if it were by solar-powered vehicles, but that’s a long way a-comin.’)
The U.S. is a “convenience society”
I realize boiling this big issue down to one key factor seems overly simplistic. However, what the consumer wants, the consumer usually gets — and what the U.S. consumer, in general, most craves is convenience, in my opinion.
The U.S. is a convenience society. We have drive-through everythings; Netflixkicked Blockbuster to the curb largely because of the convenience factor; GreenMountain Coffee Roasters’ Keurig has been phenomenally successful mainly because it’s ultra-convenient; and McDonald’s and the entire fast-food concept enjoy amazing success largely because of the ease factor.
Let’s not forget the poster child of convenience: online shopping.Amazon.com’s massive empire was built on convenience. And what’s the latest competitive space in that realm? Same-day delivery. Amazon, Wal-Mart, andGoogle, among others, see huge dollar signs in their corporate eyes in delivering even more convenience into consumers’ lives. Otherwise, would Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos be looking into using drones for short-distance same-day delivery? There are surely huge costs involved in getting that enterprise up and running. Google, likewise, apparently plans to spare no expense in capturing the convenience dollars up for grabs. It’s been widely speculated, including by The New York Times, that one reason Google’s been building up its massive robotics army — it bought eight robotics companies last year — is to use them in its retail delivery service.
Electric vehicles are largely “convenience vehicles” for many
EVs allow for the bulk of “fueling” to be done at the driver’s home, while he or she is sleeping away. And, when away from home, the driver will largely be able to plug in and charge up while parked at work, a restaurant, a shopping center, and so on. No need to go out of one’s way — even if it’s only a few blocks — to a gas station. Many people like this idea, and I’d venture to say that most of those same people likely don’t want to have to make pit stops at hydrogen fueling stations, either.
Additionally, EVs require less regular maintenance and likely fewer repairs than ICE vehicles — and who wouldn’t like that idea? This is a biggie with respect to both cost and convenience.
Now, EVs might not be considered convenient for some folks because of their range. However, I think the “range anxiety” issue is largely blown out of proportion when it comes to Tesla’s vehicles.
The Model S with the 85 kW-h battery has a 265-mile range. Let’s somewhat arbitrarily even lop off 15% during poor driving conditions. That’s 225 miles.
Americans who drive passenger vehicles drive an average of 12,000 to 13,500 miles per year. That equates to 230 to 260 miles per week. We’re talking one or two charges per week, which, for those with a garage, or select other parking facilities, can be done overnight.
Sure, extended drives will mean stopping at a Tesla Supercharger station. I’d guess most people — especially those with kids — stop after a few hours on the road to eat and/or use restrooms, anyway. A 20-minute break allows a Model S to get enough juice at a Supercharger station for an additional 130 miles, while a 30-minute break will provide power for about 200 miles. Granted, these sites aren’t conveniently located for everyone yet. So it should go without saying that EVs aren’t currently a good fit for some. And for some consumers, such as those whose jobs involve regular long-distance driving, even a 265-mile-range vehicle might not ever be convenient.
As to Supercharger stations, Tesla is aggressively expanding its charging network. By 2015, 98% of the U.S. population (and parts of Canada) will live within the Model S rated-range of a station, per the company.
Down the road, EVs should become even more convenient, as battery and charging technology will almost surely improve, so ranges will increase and charging time will decrease.
It’s a strong argument. It’s why this is my #2 reason, but honestly, maybe it really should be #1. The thrill of driving an instant-torque electric car is great, but convenience is king.
I’ll just add one more note: the huge majority of people are not familiar with the Nissan Leaf (the top-selling electric car in the world), the Tesla Model S, or the Chevy Volt. Co-workers of Chevy Volt owners have reportedly thought that the Volt couldn’t be driven in heavy snow, while others think it needs to be charged at a special charging facility at the dealership. In other words: people are still clueless about electric cars. However, as they slowly come to find out that they can charge an electric car at home (even using a simple outlet) and almost never have to visit a gas station again, get ready for some disruption. Of course, I still think the test drive or driving a friend or family member’s electric car will be the “wow” factor that really gets the ball rolling. In the end, though, that 1-2 punch + massive fuel savings + the climate and environmental benefits will surely be enough to throw the automobile industry into another dimension.
Image: electric car charging at home via Shutterstock