The Real EV Issue
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
GM is betting big on EVs for their future, even going as far to call out Norway for their EV adoption rate of 50% in their 2021 Super Bowl commercial. However, the General is not the only automaker aiming to drastically change their product offerings over the next decade, with the likes of Hyundai/Kia, Toyota, VW, and more pledging to go all or predominantly electric in the same timeframe. We have said on many episodes of our podcast and blog posts that we believe the real reason EVs are not selling at a higher percentage is not the lack of EV options to the consumer, their cost, or even their range, but rather the availability and efficiency of their charging stations.
Apparently, we are not the only ones who believe this or who have pointed this fact out. Sam over at Wendover Productions on YouTube has put together a very comprehensive look at the current state of the electric car (with one exception of his confusion between the Chevy Bolt and Chevy Volt, but that can be forgiven). In his video (shared below), he notes that on 31% of surveyed Americans would buy an EV as their next vehicle, a far cry from the 50% Norway is seeing. Making it more obvious that if it were not for the impending restrictions in the state of California banning the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035, EVs would not be as popular in America today.
I personally am very excited about the possibilities EVs bring to the table: instant torque, crazy acceleration, impressive tech, and cheaper cost of ownership. The problem my household has been facing is the charging infrastructure and charging process in general.
Charging Times are Just Too Long
Quick charging times are getting much better as the technology increases, but we are still looking at 30 minutes on average charge times.
Vehicle batteries also do not charge linearly, meaning the more empty they are the faster they will charge. This means it is quicker to charge vehicle from 50% to empty, charge to 50% once again and drive to empty vs. Charging from 0-100% and driving the same distance. Which would call for a large number of chargers in the nation, however
The infrastructure is not up to that of gas stations.
The most recent estimated count of 168,000 gas stations in the US, according to fueleconomy.gov, is an impressive number when you consider there are only 976 supercharging stations in the US. [UPDATE: As of May 2019, there were more than 68,800 Level 2 and DC fast charging units throughout the United States.] General Motors, and electric charging partner company EVgo, plan to triple the size of the nation’s largest public fast charging network by adding more than 2,700 new fast chargers over the next five years
In researching on Tesla's website, the leader in charging stations in the US, there are several popular day-tripping spots near our current residence that would be unreachable due to lack of chargers between here and there.
In perhaps the most humorous issue of all, when researching charging stations through Chevrolet.com, there are 4 charging stations listed in my city of Tyler, TX but none of them are even at the Chevrolet dealership. Rather, they list a jointly owned Nissan dealership a few blocks away, and BMW dealership across the street from the Chevrolet dealership.
Clearly, if an interested Gear Head such as myself rules out an EV purchase right off the bat for lack of interesting places to drive it, there is clearly a problem with the charging process and the infrastructure.
If you would like to hear Sam more succinctly describe the issue at hand, please watch his video below:
The next logical question when considering mass adoption of electric vehicles is, "can the grid handle the additional demand?"
I am no electrician or electrical engineer, but when I hear of rolling power outages effecting large areas of the population, my mind is instantly skeptical as to whether increasing our demand on electrical power is wise at this juncture. However, this is not the first time innovation and inventions have led to increased electrical demand. As a Texan, I could not imagine summers without my glorious air conditioning.
Luckily for all of us, Jason Fenske, over at Engineering Explained, has us all covered:
Between these two videos it is clear that the future does not depend on auto manufacturers giving us more EV choices, but rather more and more options as to where drivers can quickly recharge them.
As you can tell, we like Engineering Explained's YouTube Channel. He recently got his hands on the new, all-electric Volkswagen ID.4 crossover and gives his thoughts, which tie in nicely with this article. We have linked the video below, but the short summary is VW's very own charging network as well as the built-in features of the car are not great (or even that good) at this moment when helping you charge on the go. The infotainment will recommend other chargers outside of VW's own network, as well as the network of chargers working better with competing vehicles than they do on VWs. All this could and should be fixed via software updates, but is a major shortcoming right now, especially when comparing the the king of electric, Tesla.
What are your thoughts on the EV vs ICE conversation? Are you one of the 31% willing to make the switch or is the appeal/benefit just not there for you?
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