Do You Want EVs To Succeed? Spread The Word!

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By Benoît Michel

Everyone of sound mind supports actions to limit the impact of climate change. There are lots of practices we can do to improve our climate: sort our trash, cut down on our use of plastic, install photovoltaic panels, drive electric cars… and what else?

As electric vehicle owners, fans, and devotees, you can do something very simple that, frankly, is not done enough: you can spread the word. Taking action to convince your neighbors to switch from economy class to the cockpit and take the controls to give Planet Earth 2019 a better chance of avoiding turbulence. As CleanTechnica has repeated countless times, everything on earth should be converted to electricity, and electricity has to be generated from renewable sources and fed into a globally interconnected “super grid.” The ambitious goal of making power generation 100% carbon-free by 2050 is within reach and converting the global automobile fleet to electricity is an important part of the solution. You can help.

History of an EV Enthusiast

The electric car’s ease of use and lack of polluting exhaust originally encouraged my interest in EVs in the 1970s, when nobody was worrying about the climate. I was an automotive engineering student when I first caught the EV bug. In those days without Internet and smartphones, the only way you could drive an electric car was to build one yourself. So I did!

The author‘s home-made EV, from the author’s archive

The lack of components made the project fun as well as complicated. Having to use a forklift motor and lead batteries did not make things too exciting. However, given the rarity of electric cars in the 20th century, I managed to show mine to a large audience and may even have convinced some of the “innovators-” those who populate the lower left-hand corner of the EV adoption S-curve – seen below.

The EV adoption S-Curve, from author’s site)

John Goodenough invented the lithium-ion battery in 1980, but it took another twenty years for its price to fall to the point where it could be used in small appliances such as cell phones, and thirty years to become cheap enough to make it the energy storage solution of choice for cars. So, after my initial experiments, I had to wait decades to be able to buy an electric car worthy of the name. With all the EV owners currently scattered across the planet, we have gotten the S-curve to lift off – I would suggest that we’re now in the “early adopters” phase!

As we have long been convinced that EVs are part of the climate change, how can we help boost the curve’s slope and enter the “early majority” phase? A simple method within everyone’s reach exists – again, we need to continually spread the word.

Seize every Opportunity for EV Awareness

Family gatherings, school parties, concerts, exhibitions, and football and basketball matches offer tons of opportunities to discuss the pros and cons of electric vehicles. The first step is to correct the most widespread misconceptions. So, more than a third of the population doesn’t know that an EV has no gearbox and recharges its batteries when the brakes are applied or it goes downhill!

And roughly one out of two people doesn’t know that you charge the batteries at home at night, using a simple outlet (for more on this, see Carolyn Fortuna’s writings. Yet CleanTechnica’s readers know that this last advantage is actually one of the brightest sides of EV ownership. Morever, people seem confused when it comes to car manufacturers, the models, and the cost of current and future EVs.

I think the best way to win over the skeptics is to discuss the advantages of living with an electric car: silence and simplicity, instant acceleration, low cost of ownership, no more filling up at the pump, and so much more. And that you will not die of carbon monoxide inhalation should you leave the garage door shut.

If you’re talking to a car buff, garage mechanic, or engineer, you can talk about how there’s no clutch, gearbox, oil, or muffler. The electric car is so simple that servicing boils down to changing the tires and topping up the windshield wash. Even better, the EV’s lifespan is at least twice that of an ICE car.

When I wrote my book, The Electric Car: Here and Now, I assembled the most frequently asked questions and their answers: “It is too expensive!” “It is not really available.” “The ranges are too limited.” “Charging takes much too long.” “It does nothing to mitigate global warming.” “It’s full of rare earths and expensive metals.” “It relies on outrageous subsidies!” and the popular “Where will all the electricity come from?” I am pretty sure you already have answers ready for most of those arguments, but I included a compilation of these Q&As in the last chapter.

Win them over with Experience: Go for a Ride

Talking is great; strutting one’s stuff is even better. Whether your interlocutor is almost convinced or highly skeptical of EVs, suggest taking a little spin in your electric car. Ten minutes will suffice to show her/him everything you’ve explained, and the memory of the experience will never die!

If you belong to a group of EV owners, why not organize mini “Discover Electric Cars” events such as those held by DriveElectricWeek since 2014 – or join me: I am organizing one in September with friends in Belgium.

If we are good at spreading the word, the last laggards may hop on the electric wagon by 2030!

After serving up the same arguments dozens of times during countless discussions, I discovered that a great way to spread the word to lots of people in record time was to put everything in a book. That is why I wrote my book, The Electric Car: Here and Now– now available on Amazon. In clear, everyday language, it sums up all the controversies and pros and cons that are heard most often, and answers some questions that EV owners are always asked:

  • Life with an EV must be weird, isn’t it?
  • How does it work?
  • There’s Tesla and the other brands. Which should I choose?
  • Should we wait for hydrogen fuel cells?
  • And what about autonomous cars…? And more!
Benoit Michel
Image from the author

About the Author: Benoît Michel is an electromechanical engineer. Upon graduating he built an electric car and various electric motor prototypes, and then a low-energy house well before “low energy” was in vogue. He is an expert working for the European Commission and for PILAB (Pixel and Interaction Laboratory) at UCLouvain. He co-founded the ”Vent d’ici” association promoting renewable energies in Belgium. Through his lectures and numerous technical writings, this proponent of popular science shares his passion for new technologies, cars, and energy problems with laypeople the world over on his website and with his new book, available on Amazon. He is organizing a Drive Electric Week event in September 2019 in Belgium.

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