Currently, electric vehicles (EVs) comprise nearly 2% of the automotive market in the US, and, because so many automakers are now beginning to manufacture EVs, market share growth is occurring. Vehicle electrification policies can contribute at least 1% of cumulative emission reductions to meet a 2-degree target through 2050. What will it take to inspire more people to buy an EV?
The October, 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report revealed how humanity has about 12 years to avoid the most dire consequences of climate change. This United Nations’ scientific panel outlined that, to avert catastrophic sea level rise, food shortages, and widespread drought and wildfire, emissions must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels and by 100% by 2050. Transportation becomes a tangible way that each of us can contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions.
So why aren’t more drivers trading in their polluting gas-guzzlers for zero emission vehicles?
Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet. The US is the world’s 2nd largest producer of GHGs, and the IPCC report says that electrification is a “powerful measure to decarbonize short-distance vehicles.” Cutting back on how much gasoline we use can go a long way in decreasing how much carbon is emitted into the air. What can we who drive EVs do to convince the unconvinced that an EV can satisfy their needs, contribute to environmental consciousness — and do so much more?
An “impact of the unknown on the everyday” holds many potential EV owners back from their first all-electric transportation purchase. It’s time for us with familiarity with EVs to spread the word about their promise and power in our everyday lives and future. Here are some ways.
Promote Charging Infrastructure
Range is growing for fully electric vehicles. Many current EVs offer more than enough range to cover the average driver’s daily commute and responsibilities. The all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf is rated at 150 miles, the Chevrolet Bolt has a 238-mile range, and some Tesla vehicles reach to 300 miles and beyond on a single charge.
One of the most essential needs for electric vehicle adoption is an available charging station infrastructure to support residents’ charging needs and to encourage new EV purchases. CleanTechnica‘s “Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure: Guidelines for Cities” is an efficient way to spread the word among your local elected officials about ways to properly prepare your community for the coming mass market of electric vehicles. The free publication describes practical issues involved in planning and installing EV charging infrastructure and helps your community become ready to to take the next steps before the press of zero emissions transportation is imminent.
Tell your neighbors how easy it is to recharge your EV. If you charge at home overnight, it’s really quite simple. You plug into a secure outlet at the end of the day and, when you unplug in the morning, you’re fully recharged. Recharging eliminates your need to stop at a gas station completely. The continued increase of public Level 2 stations (which offer about 70 miles of range per hour of charge) and DC fast-charging stations (40 miles of range for every 10 minutes of charging) is making EVs visual and part of normal everyday life.
Consumer research over the past 4 years shows the decision to buy an EV is directly related to the availability of this kind of infrastructure. According to a 2018 study from the International Council on Clean Transportation, the top electric markets are beginning to solve the infrastructure challenge and have, on average, about 24 times the available charging per capita as elsewhere.
Ground Arguments to Buy an EV within a NIMBY Perspective
It takes a lot to alter the belief that living and consuming today means that each of us effectively owns a neighborhood, too. Yet the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs says that 68% of the world population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050. Projections show that urbanization — the gradual shift in residence of the human population from rural to urban areas — combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050.
That means humans will coexist in a proximity never before experienced. In denser living, visual blight or a tidy green space next door affects the value of our properties. We also know that many people, especially millennials, want to live in a sustainable environment: their idea home is situated within an energy efficient building with renewable energy heating/ cooling and nearby zero options transportation.
What’s come to be known as a NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) perspective can be highly motivating when the topic of zero emissions transportation options comes into conversations. Who wants to be the last one in the neighborhood to make the switch to zero emissions?
As EVs become more affordable, some are predicting that they will constitute almost a third of new car sales by the end of the next decade. Ride-sharing continues to surge, too, with estimates that by 2030, it will account for more than 25% of all miles driven globally, up from 4% today. These changes will also likely usher in autonomous vehicles (AV) and commercial fleets of EVs integrated as parts of everyday life. In the future, AVs will also cost significantly less per mile than vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs) for personal use — by as much as 40% — and could also reduce congestion and traffic incidents.
The idea of bringing EVs close to home has a wonderful model in Amsterdam, where one school takes its duty and responsibility to prepare students for the future and, therefore, also to teach them the importance of using our planet’s resources in a sustainable way. They’ve added an electric charging station to a renewed playground — not a fake gasoline pump as is seen on many playgrounds but, rather, a contemporary alternative that teaches children how to charge their electric car in the future.
EV Prices Level Out to Be Less than ICEs
Electric cars are currently more expensive than comparable ICEs when one walks the dealer’s lot. Sticker shock often leads buyers to turn away from EVs, especially since people see the upfront prices first and sometimes don’t get deeper into the overall cost to own a personal transportation vehicle.
The bigger picture of owning an EV is much more nuanced than the immediate purchase cost. Electricity is much cheaper than gas, and EVs are highly efficient. Electric cars also require very little maintenance. There are virtually no fluids to change, fewer working parts, and electric motors tend to work for a very long time without any routine upkeep. The Chevrolet Bolt requires almost zero maintenance for the first 150,000 miles.
As the cost of batteries goes down, EVs will become more affordable than ICEs. Combined with the lower costs of EV maintenance and repair, and assuming the cost of electricity remains competitive compared to the fossil fuel equivalent, customers will benefit from a significant decline in the operating cost per mile from driving EVs. Overall, by 2020, the total cost of a personal use EV could be about the same as an internal combustion engine (ICE), aside from any incentives, in some markets.
Electric car depreciation is fairly high right now, so used electric cars are inexpensive. Like I did, you might consider a gently used electric car. My 2015 Nissan Leaf was the ideal EV to, as they say, go-to-school-on to learn the ins and outs of zero emissions transportation.
Advocate for your Local Authorities to Foreground Zero Emissions Transportation
Local governments are also working together to build influence within sustainable energy economies. As cities transition to the opportunities that EVs can bring — from lower maintenance costs for consumers to better air quality for residents — they also must develop the core services for their communities to become EV-ready. Understanding policy measures that promote EV adoption can be part of a larger municipal effort to move toward 100% renewable energy use. A book like Designing Climate Solutions can be a help to explain sustainable transportation policy changes and fiscal implications, long-term goals, price-finding mechanisms, and small sets of actions that can achieve market goals. For example, last month, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the Climate Mayors’ Purchasing Collaborative, a online platform and resource portal that guides and encourages city leaders to obtain EVs for municipal fleets.
Electric vehicles and charging infrastructure may soon become a part of daily life due to the 2016 Volkswagen settlement. To settle allegations of cheating emissions after the EPA and Federal Trade Commission filed claims, the automaker agreed to pay $14.7 billion. One of the US Department of Justice requirements involves VW investing $2 billion ($800 million for California, $1.2 billion for the rest of the US) to increase public awareness about EVs and support public charging infrastructure. States can use up to 15% of their allocation for infrastructure and the rest to develop programs to bolster EV access. That push to municipalities may be just the motivation a local governing organization needs to join the push for zero emissions transportation options.
Before you know it, your own community may be following the example Austin, Aspen, Phoenix, Jersey City, and Fayetteville, which have made commitments to purchase light-duty EVs for their municipal fleets. Those EVs will be used by city employees across a range of departments, totaling 391 vehicles across all of the cities. If states and cities vigorously implemented their own incentives, rebates, and strategies to speed the EV transition, a pattern of EV as a norm would take on a life of its own among communities and consumers.
Follow California’s Model
In California, battery EVs comprised 3.3% of market share through June, 2018, while plug-in hybrids claimed 2.9%. It helped that Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order setting a goal of 5 million EVs in the state by 2030. Along with the executive order comes 250,000 vehicle charging stations and 200 hydrogen fueling stations to the state by 2025.
California also offers EV purchase rebates, permission for alternative-fuel cars to drive in the HOV lane, and a Clean Vehicle Rebate Project that provides $1,500 to $2,500 to consumers who purchase light-duty zero emission vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program has been successful in introducing EVs to the market by requiring automakers within the state to sell a certain percentage of electric cars and trucks, and 9 other states that have also bought in (Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont).
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently released a draft standard for transitioning the state’s transit buses to zero-emission battery or fuel cell technologies by 2040. This standard will have positive effects for bus riders, bus drivers, local air quality, and tackling global warming emissions from the transportation sector. The proposal is the result of more than 3 years of stakeholder engagement and public comment. In the process, CARB has generated a sophisticated total cost of ownership analysis, a charging cost calculator, and a thorough understanding of the on-the-ground challenges to deploying a new technology on a large scale.
EV Manufacturers: Give US Drivers the Big Vehicles They’ve Grown to Love
The US consumers love a pickup truck. The classic pickup truck is all about power, durability, and dependability, and none of those can be compromised when going electric. But these same pickup truck buyers are typically cautious about new, untested technology, and they hesitate to adopt new practices until they’re time-worn and tested. Pickup truck drivers also aren’t that knowledgeable about EVs.
CleanTechnica has just published a new electric car driver report, “Electric Car Drivers: Demands, Desires & Dreams.” Pickup trucks were more popular among survey respondents in the US as the team collected data for the report, and they are truly poorly represented at this time in the choices of electric vehicles available for purchase. Right now, the Big 3 US automakers have shown little interest in electrifying such large, heavy-duty vehicles.
To make a significant dent in the internal-combustion vehicle market, major automakers would need to offer more affordable EVs in many different models to suit different lifestyles and needs. And it’s also important to share with people who are unfamiliar with EVs that their electric propulsion systems provide instant torque and top 0-to-60-mph times. That’s a metric that will be experienced in everyday driving. Tesla’s vehicles can easily outrun most gas-powered supercars and for a lower price. And the zippiness in my Nissan Leaf is pretty awesome, too!
Maybe the Bollinger B2 is a harbinger of things to come in the electric personal truck market. It’s impressive, well designed, well thought out, and makes sense if you need to drive off-road or carry materials. There are also the Altis XT Pickup, the Workhorse W-15, and — who knows? Could Tesla could actually crack the pickup truck market if it builds a world class electric pickup truck?
The IPCC report says that the chances of limiting warming to 1.5°C require urgent action. Individual car owners need to make the switch to EVs, and fast. In the US, however, buyers are unlikely to see those motivating additional federal subsidies anytime soon. Currently, the IRS offers a tax credit of up to $7,500 for new EVs purchased for use in the US, but that will start to phase out once 200,000 qualified EVs have been sold by each manufacturer.
A coalition of EV companies that includes Tesla is advocating with the US Congress to expand the EV tax credit, though. Called the EV Drive Coalition, the group has the support of Tesla, General Motors, and Nissan, among others, and is making visible the positive effects of the $7,500 EV consumer tax credit for the economy and environment. The Coalition’s advocacy is a step in the right direction.
For a successful transition to a zero emissions transportation sector, each of us must lead by example. Part of this is to create the political will to make your community’s transportation modes healthier and cleaner. Whenever you clearly communicate the benefits of EV use in your city, you’re supporting a wider vision of leadership. Yes, it’s hard to be the one leading the debate, educating the public, and championing electric transport, yet it’s also one of the most important and valuable tasks that you can adopt right now.
Our planet is depending on you.