Why Won’t The US Embrace EVs?

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No longer do sales of diesel cars surpass electric vehicle (EV) sales in Europe. In December, 2021, European dealerships delivered 176,000 EVs, and EVs made up an estimated 14% of all new vehicles sold annually. Let’s look specifically at Denmark. The association of Danish automobile importers reported that their share of electrified passenger vehicles last month surpassed 50%. Europeans are really beginning to embrace EVs.

So, too, is the consumer shift to all-electric transportation emerging in China, where 2021 EV sales skyrocketed by 158% over previous year’s levels. That means more than 3.5 million electric vehicles — or 9% total of all vehicles — were out and about on China’s roads.

So, how is the US doing in comparison? Gulp.

The amount of EVs delivered as a percentage of total US sales in 2021 totaled just 4%. And, while many of us absolutely love our all-electric transportation, the overall dismal EV adoption rate signals that something is very different, very wrong, with the idea of electrifying everything in the US in contrast to the rest of the world.

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Barriers: Why More People in the US Don’t Embrace EVs

It is known, Khaleesi, that US transportation contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than any other source, and that the US is the world’s second-largest contributor to carbon emissions. Sure, the Environmental Protection Agency updated its greenhouse gas emission rules for passenger vehicles last year, but the measure was little more than a step back to standards in effect under the Obama administration.

President Joe Biden has set a national target for EVs to comprise half of all new vehicle sales by 2030. Many auto industry executives consider it a realistic goal. But there’s cognitive dissonance, a real gap, among plans, projections, and the current state of US EV purchases.

What are the current barriers to US EV adoption?

  • Range anxiety continues to be a constant source of consumer tension.
  • Many people are uncomfortable switching from a quick and familiar topping off at the gap pump to the slightly longer process of charging an EV.
  • A prevailing point of view holds that EVs possess little more power than a golf cart.
  • EVs seem more expensive than comparable gas-powered cars.
  • It’s hard to test drive EVs in many states.
  • Direct sales to consumers are still prohibited in large segments of the US.
  • US vehicle manufacturers have huge investments in current production lines, so that even a soon-to-be-outmoded model retains manufacturer allure due to its greater immediate profitability.
  • Dealership sales personnel aren’t trained in all-electric transportation, and they demean what they don’t know to potential EV buyers.
  • Dealer franchise laws means that manufacturers can’t force dealers to make the investment needed to train their sales staff how to sell EVs or their service departments how to maintain them.
  • Tesla has nearly a decade advantage in EV manufacturing, and automakers resent having to play catch up.

Progress toward EV Adoption & the Best Vehicle You’ll Ever Drive

The news is not all bad, however. 2022 is expected to bring an especially dramatic increase in the number of EVs on the US market, extending from today’s 62 models to at least 100. That means there will be more EVs from which to choose at a reasonable price and range and in model segments.

In a January, 2022 study, 51% of US adults surveyed said they are likely to consider purchasing an EV, up from 39% in January, 2021 and 43% in April, 2021. The slowly rising upward US swing toward EVs emerges from public concern about the local impacts of the climate crisis, as witnessed through natural disasters and likely future energy prices.

The automobile as we know it has been around for nearly a century. It takes tremendous wherewithal to dismantle a deeply embedded belief and replace it with a new one. But, with the climate crisis looming, the most urgent goal is to inspire action. And there is so much new and happening and inspirational in the world of EVs!

  • Several US states have begun to enact supportive policy measures to help consumers embrace EVs that include pre-purchases, ownership, infrastructure build-out, and education and outreach.
  • Today’s cars are as much computers as they are automobiles. Acceleration, braking, steering, climate controls, navigation systems, and infotainment options are all controlled digitally.
  • BP says its fast electric vehicle chargers are on the cusp of becoming more profitable than filling up a gas-powered car. The milestone will mark a significant moment for BP, which wants to shift away from oil and expand operations in power markets and around EVs.
  • EV sales are projected to rise commensurate with drops in purchase price tags, according to CNBC.
  • The massive power of an EV has been under-reported. Look no further than the upcoming Tesla Roadster, with cold air rocket thrusters positioned at the rear, allowing for a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 1.1 seconds. And speed? Tesla increased the top speed of the Model 3 Performance from 155 mph to 162 mph.
  • Driving an EV makes your life easier due to its settings that adjust for driver preferences, its smart capacity, and quiet luxury.
  • Parking for single-family detached housing is most often a driveway/carport, which offers the potential of plugging in.
  • Few people in the US drive more than 27 miles per day on average, and improvements in battery storage offer longer range than ever before.
  • The $1.2-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure.
  • States with zero emission vehicle (ZEV) requirements have more EV models and greater EV adoption. Manufacturers preferentially distribute and sell EVs in states with ZEV policies. As a result, while ZEV states make up less than 30% of the new car buying market, consumers in those states are purchasing nearly two-thirds of all EVs — so government policies help a lot.

Final Thoughts about Getting US Consumers to Embrace EVs

The Trump administration didn’t see the value in EVs and still holds sway over loyalists’ perspectives about EVs. To that end, Farm Journal reports that, in a House Agriculture Committee hearing last week, Congressperson Glenn Thompson (R-PA) considered the influence EVs will have on rural America and posed 4 questions about the realm of electric vehicles:

  1. Who will pay for retail distribution and charging infrastructure?
  2. Will electric vehicles meet the needs of all drivers like a conventional vehicle, without tradeoffs in cost, range, capacity, or time of service, particularly for rural residents?
  3. How will the transition to electric vehicles impact the liquid transportation fuel industry, particularly for agricultural producers and oil producers?
  4. Will electric vehicle manufacturing increase our dependence on foreign nations for the raw materials necessary to build batteries?

These are more good questions to ask and answer in order to inform potential EV buyers. If you’re interested in learning about these and other questions relating to EVs, charging, and infrastructure, check out the CleanTechnica report series.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

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