What Dealers Need To Teach EV Salespeople & Customers (Part 2)

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This article is part of a series. You can find Part 1 here.

Obsolete Objections

The EV world is evolving quickly — often more quickly than even EV enthusiasts and businesses can keep up with. This means some customers will be even further behind on their information. This means you’ll encounter objections to EVs that were true 5-10 years ago, but aren’t true today. I’m going to go through some of them and what information you need to provide to overcome them.

One big one you’ll encounter is people saying there’s nowhere to charge them.

EV superfans will tell you that there are power outlets everywhere, but a US 120-volt plug can only add 3-5 miles of range per hour of charging to most EVs. That may be enough for home charging for many people, but it won’t be enough for road trips and the rare days where you exceed the EV’s range running errands around town. So you’ll be seen as deceptive sooner or later if you give customers that answer.

The correct answer is to direct them to check out Plugshare.com or the Plugshare app.

A screenshot of Plugshare.com showing rapid charging stations in New Mexico and Arizona.

You’ll need to tell the website or app what kind of car you’re looking at, and it will filter out for the plugs that work for it. Yellow/orange sites are rapid chargers (15-45 minutes) while the green sites are slower chargers meant more for overnight use or opportunity charging. I’ll give a lot more information about charging later in this series.

Another common objection you’ll see some people raise is range. Ten years ago, the first widely-available EVs like the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi iMiEV had very short ranges that only made them suitable for local driving (which is still very useful). Most newer EVs are very capable of doing a lot more. The range will vary by vehicle, of course, so be sure to share that information with customers. Later in this series, I’ll cover what those EPA ranges on the Monroney sticker look like in the real world so you can help your customers set realistic expectations.

One last obsolete objection: the cost of electricity. I call this one an obsolete objection because people know that there’s a lot of energy in a gallon of gasoline (33.7 kWh to be precise), and assume that an EV will need that much energy just to drive a few miles like their gas car. If that assumption were true, an EV would make your electricity bill jump.

The truth of this one is that EVs are a lot more efficient than gas cars. A combustion engine wastes 2/3 to 3/4 of the energy in the fuel, mostly as waste heat. That big radiator, the heat under the hood, and the hot exhaust are where most of the gasoline’s energy goes. What little remains actually moves the car. In reality, you’ll probably save more money switching your home over to LED light bulbs than you’ll spend charging your car most days.

Total Cost of Ownership

As of this writing, EVs generally cost more than a comparable gas-powered car. It’s not as extreme as it once was, and some models are getting really close, but you’ll usually be trying to sell a more expensive car with a higher payment in most cases. If that’s all a customer is looking at, they might go for the cheaper car or go to the competition.

To overcome this objection, you need to point out that the whole cost of ownership is lower for EVs. Sure, the gas car has a lower payment, but you’ll pay more every month for gas. You’ll also have oil changes, tune-ups, timing belts, and other expenses that all add up. In the end, they’ll pay more for driving the gas-powered car.

And, all this is before you consider the value of time. Time spent going to gas stations, going to the shop for oil changes, and downtime for more complex maintenance all adds up, too.

CleanTechnica has a number of good articles showing that the EV is cheaper despite a higher payment that you can look at for greater details.

Basic Operation Differences (If Any)

In most ways, an EV is going to be the same to drive as any other car. There’s a wheel, a brake pedal, an accelerator pedal, and a gear selector of some kind. In most cases, a driver will be able to get behind the wheel, adjust the seat and mirrors, and drive.

There are some exceptions to this, though. The Nissan LEAF and Chevy Bolt EV have gear selectors that are a little different than common column and floor shifters in gas cars. Tesla column gear selectors are also a little different. You’ll need to show a driver how to get into Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive as well as how to handle situations like loading the vehicle on a tow truck or automatic car washes.

Some customers will likely struggle with regenerative braking that’s tied to the accelerator pedal. In many EVs with “one pedal driving,” the car will begin to slow down when the driver lifts their foot from the pedal, and if they don’t need to make a hard stop, the vehicle can actually come to a complete stop without ever touching the brake pedal. For some drivers, this will be a good experience, but for others it will be confusing and disorienting.

For the people having a problem with one pedal driving, you may need to assist them in learning how to disable or weaken it. Regenerative braking will probably still happen when they press the brake pedal, so there shouldn’t be any efficiency loss. You’ll need to look at the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer to figure out how to do this for a given EV, but it’s usually as easy as switching from L to D on the gear selector, changing something in a menu in the infotainment, or even pressing a switch near the gear selector.

In Part 3, I’m going to cover real world EV driving range, and the complexities of charging that you’ll need to coach new EV customers on.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1780 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba