We are the first to acknowledge the problems standing in the way of full-scale electric vehicle adoption in America. Until costs come down and range gets better, auto consumers will rely on more practical gasoline options available and deal with the consequences.
Some day, the option to choose a gas guzzler won’t be so simple. Depending on the rising temperatures, state emissions caps, and the number of attractive EVs on the market, consumers won’t have many reasons to choose a polluting automobile when a true zero emissions vehicle is the alternative.
That day may arrive sooner than we think. Here are seven reasons widespread electric vehicle adoption is inevitable in America.
1. Electric vehicles are more efficient
Even when gasoline prices were plummeting in late 2014, U.S. consumers continued buying plug-in EVs, and the reason was their superior efficiency. Unlike gas cars, an electric car delivers the same efficiency for the life of a vehicle, regardless of prices at the pump. Because of this fact, plug-in cars have a huge upside when compared to gas alternatives.
Take the success of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV). Though not available in the U.S., home to the world’s largest EV market, the Outlander PHEV ranked second in global EV sales in 2014. About 90% of drivers’ trips are possible without using gasoline in a PHEV, and that efficiency sells itself.
2. Energy independence
No one is proud the U.S. negotiates with despots in foreign countries in order to ensure the safe passage of affordable oil for our cars. With the rise in domestic production and an electric grid capable of supporting 150 million EVs (75% of all vehicles on U.S. roads), the path to energy independence has never been clearer for America. Electric vehicle adoption is a tool to make it work.
This argument often gets lost in the shuffle these days. We like discussing Tesla stock prices and the dorky Mitsubishi i-MiEV as much as the next publication, but bear in mind that the U.S. spends $300 billion on importing foreign oil. As the BBC pointed out, that represents two thirds of our trade deficit. Dependence on foreign oil hurts the economy and makes us more vulnerable to international disputes.
3. EVs are better than gas alternatives
When the Tesla Model S started outselling the Mercedes S-Class, you can bet bells were ringing all the way to Stuttgart. Hence the Audi R8 e-tron and other high-priced innovations bent on competing with Tesla. Features like instant torque and smooth acceleration are making the top EVs better cars to drive than gas alternatives. (See Tesla’s top score in Consumer Reports testing for independent confirmation.)
Outside of the premium class, electric vehicles maintain that advantage. Nissan Leaf drivers who never pay for gasoline and have instant torque available for urban driving swear by their vehicles. As more options appear on the market, a higher percentage of drivers will get used to the advantages of commuting in an EV.
4. Greenhouse gas levels are critical
We can pretend the glaciers aren’t melting, but is more difficult to explain breathing problems in children and other catastrophic effects of overwhelming greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is probably the biggest challenge the human race faces in the coming century, but world leaders are acting awfully slow to combat it (bad for business, you see).
California has been one of the worst offenders in emissions since cars were invented, but now the Golden State is setting an example for the world to follow. Aggressive emissions reductions mandates and alternative fuel vehicle programs in the state have forced major automakers to get greener or risk business in America’s top auto market. In China and other countries, mounting health problems have been the motivator. In any event, the situation is critical. EVs can help make emissions reductions a reality.
5. EV operating costs
It sounds obvious, but it is important to remember how inexpensive it is to operate electric vehicles. Fueleconomy.gov estimates drivers save $5,000 in fuel costs over 5 years when driving a Nissan Leaf as oppposed to the average (24 mile per gallon) car on the road.
On top of the savings in fuel costs, electric vehicles are now cheaper to insure than gas cars and have lower operating costs. Ever have a problem with your car’s alternator, transmission, or radiator? Every driver has, but you would never have any of these problems if you owned an EV.
6. Solar power = zero emissions
We have been adept at depleting natural resources of every kind, but humans have yet to figure out how to stop the sun from shining. Solar power is the key to providing clean, forever renewable energy to power our vehicles. As we grapple with ways to stop the temperature from rising, one would think solar power will get its due.
A recent study by the Carnegie Institution for Science showed California could exceed its electricity demand by three to five times on solar power alone. While lawmakers consider which industries to subsidize, we suggest glancing at solar projects on the table. Zero emissions driving could soon be a reality.
7. Every automaker is in the game
Kia. General Motors. Nissan. Mercedes-Benz. Name a major automaker and you will find electric vehicle development in the company’s pipeline. (Even Toyota’s fuel cell vehicles run on electric motors.) The biggest competition may be the race to an affordable EV capable of going 200 miles on a charge, but plug-ins work in every segment and price point.
From the compact Ford Focus Electric to the BMW X5 plug-in and the Tesla Model S, there are unlimited possibilities for electric power in automobiles. In many respects, we have California to thank for forcing automakers’ hands on electric drivetrains. Now that they are all in the game, the inevitable competition between manufacturers in the electric vehicle space will yield more quality products for consumers.