This is a guest post by Mandy Miller. Follow her on Twitter @amandammiller9.
I’m sitting in an energy and environment class my junior year of college. My professor is giving another spiel about all the automotive technologies available today that would make our world cleaner and more efficient. While his main point of focus was infrastructure, I was thinking how hard it is to sell these cutesy little vehicles.
I was recently reading an article in the New York Times which features the spotlight in showrooms of more efficient electric cars and the benefits these vehicles pose to those wanting to run quick errands and daily commutes. Although the article focuses in more on the infrastructure, costs and challenges in terms of charging these vehicles, I can’t help but wonder how we are making a hard marketing push on cars that don’t really have the infrastructure backing them (amongst other current consumer must-haves) to quickly gain a large market share.
There are a few main bullets I notice when looking at the market for efficient, specifically electric vehicles:
Admit it – you know you get that smile on your face when you see that powerful car with those sweet smooth curves. You get excited when you hear a Camaro or Maserati rev its engine. I can’t say too many people get excited when they see a Prius or Leaf turn on. The most I get excited is when the dashboard flashes green telling me I’m being nice to the environment.
Short driving range:
The Nissan Leaf can go about 70 miles at highway speeds on a full charge. I can go approximately 300 with my Cougar – and it has a guzzling V6 engine over a more wallet-friendly 4-cylinder. If you’re going on a long road trip, the vehicle won’t be for you, considering how many electric fueling stations (currently) there are in remote locations – plus I’m not quite sure hotels are offering complimentary car charging with you one-night stay and continental breakfast.
The Volt requires about 10 hours to fully charge on 120 volts and the Leaf, with its larger battery, needs closer to 20 hours. You can fuel up a car in 10 minutes or so and be on the road again. Do consumers have the time to invest in this type of car? In this go-go world, we get ticked when our phone battery dwindles after a few hours. How are you going to handle a quick-charge on a car when it could take you a shorter amount of time to fuel up with some petro.
Cost (for both the consumer and fuel/charging stations):
While the vehicles themselves can be lower cost if they are using up less metal and materials, parts and maintenance aren’t so much. Higher-voltage cables to charge electric cars cost extra (about $2,000 and the majority of that goes to the installation). Fast chargers also have complex hardware and a permanent installation (not an onboard system which requires a connection to 480-volt three-phase alternating current). Some chargers can go at least $20,000 for the charger on top of another $20,000 for installation. I’m ticked at the $40 I’ll spend on fixing my side-view mirror.
This brings us to the ever-lingering question: Did the chicken or the egg come first? Do we need to have the infrastructure to support these vehicles before we market them or do we need to market them before the infrastructure can be made?
What are your thoughts?