Opinion: The Only Sure Way to Increase EV Demand Is to Surge Ahead
2023 wasn’t the best year for EVs. Satisfaction with the charger network is dropping, 1 in 5 early adopters are selling their EVs and returning to gas, the price of used EVs is plummeting, and Detroit automakers and dealerships are pumping the brakes on production and sales. At first, I wondered if everyone who can buy an EV already has one. Then, I looked into the capabilities of the latest EVs. We need to forge ahead with EV production because the public charging network is about to hit a tipping point, and EVs will become the default commuter car.
Outrunning range anxiety
You’ve heard it at the water cooler (perhaps you’ve even said it), “I’d love an EV, but take that yearly road trip to visit the folks, and electric cars don’t have the range.”
What if I told you EVs can road trip indefinitely?
When I pitted the lowest kW/mile models against one another in a simulated cross-country drive, I found that the Hyundai Ionic 5 offers three hours of driving time for every 20-30 minutes of charging time. Yup, that’s six (plus) minutes of driving for every one minute of charging. Comparable to a regular internal combustion road trip. With Tesla’s Supercharger network, the Model 3 beats that 1:6 ratio with a 1:7 ratio.
I ran this simulation on “A Better Route Planner” to factor in chargers currently occupied or offline for maintenance. Folks, this is the world we live in. With the current charging network and current battery chemistries. The future isn’t Hummer EVs with the biggest lithium battery pack ever built. It is hatchbacks with low kW/mile ratings and 800-volt charging speeds. The future is here, and it is relatively affordable.
We need a robust public charging network
Here’s where the “forge ahead” part comes in. We need DC fast chargers. And we need them like, everywhere. The latest federal plan earmarks essentially unlimited money for DC fast chargers along the interstates highways. And that’s a critical next step. If you are driving your efficient EV on a roadtrip, it’s important that charging ports are open when and where you need them.
What about the rest of the country? Once EV adoption hits a tipping point, businesses and municipalities will be eager to invest in chargers. We are already seeing them pop up at grocery stores and restaurants in densely populated places. So as the percentage of drivers with EVs increases, we’ll see the same cost/benefit numbers in increasingly less populace places.
EVs aren’t for everyone, on every drive
The truth is that EV pickup trucks aren’t great for towing long distances. I suspect the Tesla Semi can’t haul anything heavier than potato chips for more than 100 miles. Ram is working on a range-extended electric truck with an internal combustion V6 to recharge its battery, so I’m keeping my eye on that. But in the short term, diesel trucking is here to stay. And folks who haul heavy things for work will need trucks. But it wouldn’t kill the rest of us to rent a pickup when we drag the boat to the lake once a year.
Classic car enthusiasts will also fight to keep our hobby alive. And that’s just fine. An anonymous source at the EPA has said it has no interest in going after the fraction of emissions caused by old hobby cars. And I hope that’s true.
But for the rest of us. The answer is to forge ahead until the EV becomes the default for the push-button commuter. And with used EV prices in free-fall (the Model 3 is coming down the fastest, hint hint). Now might be the time to convert.
Next, read my list of EVs that excel at long roadtrips, or see an EV road trip race in the video below: