The #1 Barrier To Electrification Of Cars

Originally published on EV Obsession.

I was honored to moderate an excellent panel on the topic of “Electrifying Transport” at the recent Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum in Vancouver, Canada. I’ll write articles about each of the presentations from that panel in the coming days, but to kick things off, below is my presentation, which focuses on the #1 barrier to electrification of transport (and also briefly explains several of the key benefits of electric vehicles).

I recorded the whole panel (in quite mediocre quality) on my video camera so that I could share the presentations with all of you. However, the Renewable Cities crew also recorded the audio of the whole session and has published that on YouTube. So, if you want to listen to the whole session now (including the beginning of my intro, where I brag about myself in order to get more EV Obsession and CleanTechnica readers), you can listen here or via the video embedded on the bottom of this article.

If you want to take this panel one presentation at a time and look at the slides, here’s my intro to kick us off (with the slides embedded below the video for even better viewing):

The report I note in the video is one I wrote about here on EV Obsession when it came out. Many times since, I have referenced the point that only 22% of surveyed Americans were “familiar with” (read: “aware of”) the Tesla Model S, and only 31% with the Nissan LEAF. But the thing that really stood out to me as I was watching this presentation again is that under 5% of the respondents were “extremely familiar” with the Model S or LEAF. I’m sure those numbers have risen since then, but by how much? The overall point that the large majority of the population doesn’t really know about the LEAF or Model S, let alone other electric cars, is surely still relevant, and I think that lack of awareness and experience is still the #1 barrier to electrification of transport. But the barrier will come down with time and effort….

Just to hammer home my point a bit more, the next slide (#4) highlighted the point that 30% of the population was reportedly “Very Interested” or “Extremely Interested” in a hypothetical plug-in hybrid electric car that cost $28,000 or less… but there are already plug-in hybrids on the market at about that price, and they are much cheaper than that if you count incentives. Nowhere close to 30% of the population is buying these cars, though. It seems that respondents either didn’t know what they were talking about or still aren’t aware of the plug-in cars on the market. (By the way, it was essentially the same story when it came to their interest in affordable fully electric vehicles.)

I speculated a bit more when discussing slide #5, but I think this next point gets to the heart of the matter. Toyota topped the respondents’ “EV preference by brand,” despite the fact that Toyota offers the lamest plug-in car on the market (in terms of electric range). Basically, I think the point is that respondents were conflating conventional hybrids with plug-in cars, not realizing how different these beasts are and how big the benefits of plug-in electric cars are (particularly, the convenience of home charging and the awesomeness of instant torque).

My last slide (before the ad) put the nail in the coffin, imho. Only about 10% of respondents “completely agree” that “EVs are exciting to drive and own.” Just about anyone who has experience with electric cars knows they are exciting. I can only surmise that the respondents were thinking of conventional hybrids. All of this tells me it’s a case of massively missed messaging, and that’s something I’m trying to help fix.

Check back soon for Part 2 of this series, or just listen to the full panel session below (without the slides, of course).

Zachary Shahan

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.