Electric Vehicles: Where Are We Now?

It was no surprise that this year’s Super Bowl game was inundated with advertisements; that’s often the reason why most viewers bother to turn on the TV for the biggest sports championship in the United States. As has been the tradition, those commercials included a variety of flashy new car advertisements trumpeting all the bells and whistles associated with the modern American vehicle. 

In years past, a single electric car commercial has joined the ranks of automobile advertisement contenders. The advertisement made a splash with critics but was viewed as yet another boxy, unattractive, expensive and impractical vehicle by many consumers. However, this year’s advertisements marked a new first: not one, but four electric car commercials featuring sharp, sleek vehicles from top companies such as Audi, BMW, GMC, and Porsche. The jump in adverts for these vehicles is a testament to the fact that sales for electric cars in the U.S. doubled from the previous year. But despite the uptick in interest, electric vehicles still have some distance to go to capture the American imagination.

Electric Vehicle Production

Although the push for automobile companies to produce more electric vehicles is increasing, many of these companies are reluctant to dedicate more time, production, money, and advertising on cars that are not selling enough to make them worth the effort. EVs are not advertised nearly as much as gas-powered vehicles. Even on sales lots, many salespersons seem as uninformed about EVs as some of their potential customers. Because there are fewer moving parts in an EV, they require less maintenance than traditional cars. This, in turn, cuts down on the need to visit a dealership for maintenance, which is often a source of significant profit for dealerships and thus not an incentive to sell EVs. 

Despite the lag in car companies and dealerships’ attention to EVs, more consumers are looking favorably at them and even purchasing them: roughly 330,000 electric cars were sold in America last year. To encourage people to consider an EV as their next vehicle, many states offer incentivized programs, such as tax credits and price incentives. 

Some states, like Colorado, are beginning to follow California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which requires the state’s car companies to sell a certain percentage of EV cars and trucks and to meet requirements for limited tailpipe pollution. Other states, such as New York, New Jersey, and Washington State, are developing EV promotions and legislation to encourage consumers to go electric.

As the current costs for EV vehicles decline, research shows that sales will increase with EVs representing an estimated 65% of car sales by 2050. While the sales of EVs may be sluggish now, signs point to a future full of transportation benefits for consumers and profits for automobile manufacturers. 

Purchasing and Practicality 

Purchasing an electric vehicle has changed significantly since General Motors released an electric version of the Chevy S10 pickup truck in 1997. EVs were initially too expensive for the average American consumer; however, an increase in vehicle production and lower battery costs have made the majority of EVs more affordable; Tesla’s Model 3 has a retail price of $38,990, not counting additional state-sponsored tax incentives. 

For early adopters, primary concerns were limited mileage range and a lack of access to charging stations, but the cost of charging an EV has decreased as the number of vehicles has increased. With advancements in EV technology, many electric cars can drive for over 200 miles before requiring a charge, rendering the mileage concern moot. The impact of “range anxiety,” or the fear of running out of electric charge, is also nearing an end. According to the Department of Energy, there are almost 22,000 charging stations in the U.S., including 65,000 individual charging outlets.

Overall, EV car ownership saves the consumer money as compared to gas cars. Whereas gas vehicles convert 17-21% of energy in gasoline, EVs use 50-62% of energy to power the car. It costs less to use electricity to charge a car than to purchase gas to power it. Initially, EVs have upfront costs, but in the long run, these vehicles are cheaper and more practical to own and operate. 

Consumers who are looking to purchase an EV may wonder if it’s worth it to buy new or used. As with purchasing gasoline-powered vehicles, the decision often depends on a person’s budget and expectations. The benefits of buying a new EV typically include a full warranty, rebates, fast charging ability, and tax credits of up to $7500 for most cars

Purchasing a used EV, while rare, is an option for a car buyer. There will be fewer leaks to check for, but the same general tips for inspecting a used car apply: inspect all the panels for dents, check the motor and battery for abnormal wear and tear, and make sure to get a thorough vehicle report. Older EV models can be found for low prices due to their diminished resale value, with used EVs selling for 43-72% less than new EV cars. These models tend to have fewer miles and provide a smooth ride combined with an environmentally-safer experience.

EVs and Environmental Impact

The United States is the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases due primarily to transportation emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that people have roughly 12 years to prevent some of the most damaging aspects of climate change, such as food shortages, wildfires, and rising sea levels. As such, it is vitally important that the U.S. and its consumers take an active role in reducing their dependency upon gas-powered vehicles. The advent of a more environmentally-conscious consumer society is a slowly increasing aspect of EV production and popularity. 

An AAA study reveals that 74% of people surveyed about purchasing an EV stated that environmental concern was their top reasons to consider such an investment. Because of this, the social and cultural concern for the environment is likely to grow, making EVs attractive to Gen Xers and millennials for whom climate change is a serious issue; these two generations are the groups most likely to buy EVs at 39.8% and 34.9% respectively as well as outfit homes with solar panels with a focus on sustainability. An increased focus on sustainability and social responsibility are two of the trends of the future of business. The EV market feeds directly into this.

Driving (and Charging) Toward the Future

The EV revolution is still in its infancy. The industry has yet to catch on with the majority of consumers, automobile manufacturers, and dealerships. That said, four EV commercials in this year’s Super Bowl advertising extravaganza is an indicator of the bright — and clean— future ahead for the American electric vehicle. With an increased emphasis on saving money, mileage, and the environment, EVs are sure to be a staple in the automobile market within the next decade.

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