All-electric cars in Costa Rica, Image courtesy of Mario Duran Ortiz

GM EV Live Answers Your Questions About Electric Cars

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Electric cars are not all that different than conventional cars. They have seats, a steering wheel, pedals in the usual locations, and four wheels. What they don’t have is an internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline or diesel. That’s a good thing, because it means that electric cars don’t have a tailpipe that spews pollutants into the atmosphere as they drive. But it also means they need to be recharged by electricity instead of refueled from a gas pump. Because electric cars are relatively new, there aren’t as many charging locations available as there are gas stations. That will change in the next few years.

In the world of sales, it is well known that people who have questions about products won’t buy them until those questions get answered. That’s why sales people are trained to answer those questions, so customers will feel comfortable about making buying decisions. When it comes to cars, the process for generations has been to go to a dealership to get the answers we need.

electric cars
The GM EV Live experience. Image courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is trying something new. With its EV Live website, anyone who has questions about electric cars can speak with an actual person at the company’s tech center in Warren, Michigan. Hoss Hassani, GM’s vice president of the EV Ecosystem, told Autoweek during a recent interview, “Anybody can access it. It’s always available and it’s free. It’s not just for GM customers. It’s really for anybody. It’s basically an interactive education platform.”

“There’s a lot of content on the site,” Hassani said. “The ideal experience is to actually speak with one of our EVLive specialists that are real humans. These aren’t avatars or bots or ChatGPT AI. Behind the scenes is a real human being. You can see them on video (they can’t see you), and you can ask them literally any question you have about electric cars — charging, range, batteries, longevity, sustainability, recyclability, cost of ownership. They’re really there to help demystify EVs for the masses, and for folks who are on the fence or maybe they don’t believe in EVs altogether. So that’s the gist of what EVLive is all about.”

If a customer has a question about a particular General Motors product instead of a general question about electric cars, the will be connected seamlessly to another live person who can answer their specific question. “Every General Motors customer, if they have a Chevrolet, they have a mychevrolet app. If they have a GMC, they have a myGMC app,” said Hassani. “People are initiating a live call or looking to go deeper than the information we’re providing on the website, which is the whole point — to allow us to have deeper conversations that are more personalized to your individual use case.”

There are specialists available who can discuss Brightdrop electric delivery vans. There are also separate GM EVLive studios for Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC. “We have this very seamless handoff between the EVLive studio and, for example, the Chevy studio if you want to find out more about the Equinox that’s coming out — whether it’s a gasoline Equinox, or the electric Equinox. This studio is meant to be focused on that education, around EVs,” Hassani said.

Last year, 6% of vehicles sold in the US were electric. People who study market trends know that is a significant statistic because it often represents a tipping point — the moment in time when a new technology goes from being a curiosity to becoming mainstream. “Based on what we’ve seen in China and in Europe, once you hit that 5% or 6% of new vehicle sales being EVs, you start to see an acceleration,” said Hassani. “So the next five years, we’ll see it becomes a tipping point. So I see a lot more people getting into electric cars over the next five years than we did over the last 10.”

The GM EV Live studio is open every day from 9 am to 9 pm eastern time Monday through Friday and 11 am to 7 pm on weekends.

Electric Cars Are Different

Many people expect electric cars to be exactly like conventional cars, but they are not. Part of that is down to basic mathematics. A gallon of gasoline has an energy density of 33.7 kWh. If you have a conventional car with a 10-gallon gas tank, it will have about the same energy as a 337 kWh battery. Today, typical electric cars have a 75 kWh battery. Do the math — 75 is a lot smaller than 337. One way manufacturers are trying to offset the difference between conventional cars and electric cars is to make EVs more efficient.

Efficiency comes in several forms. Electric cars are made to be more aerodynamic so they slip through the air with less friction. They can use lighter materials and heat pumps for more efficient heating and cooling. But they cannot completely offset the energy difference between batteries and gasoline. There simply are not going to be mass market electric cars that can travel 500 miles or more on the highway without stopping to recharge — at least not for a while yet.

That may happen at some point in the future as better batteries with greater energy density become available. The internal combustion engine took more than a century to be perfected. Battery technology will follow a similar trajectory. But if electric electric cars can’t compete with conventional cars on range and charging/refueling times, what’s the point? Why is the world transitioning to electric cars at all?

The answer to that is simple. If we as a species continue to waste the energy available to us for our own comfort, amusement, and convenience, we will destroy the ability of the Earth to support human life. End of story. Full stop.

Just how wasteful are we? A conventional car is about 25% efficient, which means that three-quarters of the energy stored in the tank is squandered, most of it as heat. Suddenly, that 337 kWh of energy in a ten gallon tank becomes only 84.25 kWh of usable energy. What a colossal waste of resources! [Regular readers know I am math challenged but I recently got a new $5 calculator from Amazon that has lots of buttons I don’t understand and it says that is the right answer.]

In the end, it’s about way more than tailpipe emissions. Extracting oil from the ground, transporting it to refineries, and converting it into gasoline creates huge amounts of carbon emissions in addition to the environmental damage done throughout the entire production process.

So, yes, it is fair to say that driving electric cars is not quite as convenient as driving a gasmobile, but is convenience a good enough reason to destroy a perfectly good planet?

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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