Electric automotives: A solution or a problem?


CONSUMER’S CHOICE — The Chevrolet Bolt EV (top) and the Tesla Model 3 (bottom) provide long-range distance of 300 miles, while still running on electric power. (Electrek)

In early September, China announced their plan to eventually ban gasoline-powered cars. Not too soon after, California may do something similar if regulators ban the internal combustion engine entirely. With the push for the automotive industry to shift toward electric vehicles (EV), several large automakers have announced some form of “electrification” within the next few years. More significantly, one of the largest global automakers, General Motors, revealed a similar vision in shifting the industry to design 20 electric models by 2023.

Other large companies are following this trend, such as Volvo, Chevrolet and Ford who plans to launch 13 new EV mod- els within the next five years. Will this environmental future turn out as planned?

“I would not say it’s imminent. There are some things that have to happen before we see this big surge to electric vehicles,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst of AutoTrader, in a recent interview on CNBC.

One major issue with this industry evolution is the absence of consumer acceptance. According to surveys, consumers love the idea of an electric car. However, when given the choice to purchase, their interests die down and they instead resort to buying a gas-powered vehicle.

In 2016, hybrids, plug-ins and complete battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) contributed to less than three percent of the vehicles sold in the U.S. While U.S. EV sales have significantly increased in July 2017 compared to the previous year, EVs are not abundant quite yet. In fact, “they remain only about one percent of total sales in the U.S.,” said Krebs.

Another limiting factor in the growth of the EV market is the massive technology investment for generating electrical charging plants. In fact, this may counteract the goal of going green if these electric plants mainly rely on coal. California is the only major area in the U.S. where infrastructure for charging stations is available. The U.S. is estimated to have 120,000 gas stations across the country and duplicating this distribution for charging stations is merely impossible. One large charging station would use up as much power as Facebook or Google’s gigantic data centers.

A solution for this power usage would rely on solar and wind farms to fuel new power plants. However, about 85 to 90 percent of BEV and plug-in hybrid owners usually do a majority of vehicle charging in their homes overnight, which may provide 50-100 miles. Some models, such as the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model 3 are examples of long-range vehicles that can perform 300 miles per charge.

This is a contradictory approach since more infrastructure being available would depend upon the amount of consumers who drive EVs. However, in order for people to purchase these vehicles, available infrastructure needs to be accessible to attract these consumers.

One approach to attract consumers toward EVs is to drive costs down and increase driving range. Manufacturers mainly need to be concerned with the battery. The size of it needs to decrease to reduce weight, which would increase mileage. Most EVs are sedans, which makes sense for manufacturers who aim to decrease the size of the vehicle. But trucks and SUVs are more popular among drivers, so consumers’ preferences may not match with EV features. According to Business Insider, the top three best-selling cars and trucks of 2016 were the Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-Series.

The overall economy is a large indicator that may predict the demand for new EV models. If gas prices are cheap while new EV models are being introduced by 2020, then buyers will be less likely to switch to electric. Electric cars cannot only be eco-friendly, but need to enhance a person’s driving experience to be successful in the market.

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