On October 6th 2018, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report for policy makers with an urgent message: in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030 and reach zero emissions by 2075.
While comprehensive climate change mitigation requires action across most sectors, transportation has become an area of increasing focus. As the leading contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the transportation sector needs an overhaul to make any significant progress on climate change.
Fortunately, technology improvements have led to the development of electric vehicles, which produce less than 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions traditional vehicles emit, according to a report by the California Air Resources Board.
By October 2018 U.S. electric vehicle sales reached 1 million units. As the economy poises to embrace the electrification of transportation, many energy, automotive, and economic experts agree our future will be driven by an electrified transportation system, due to both the economic and environmental benefits of these technologies.
Yet even with clear benefits and increasing availability, there are consumers who are hesitant to switch to electric vehicles. What are three myths about electric vehicles that consumers need to know in 2019? Which startups are developing solutions to make the transition to electric vehicles easier?
1. Consumers believing electric vehicles are more expensive than traditional vehicles
In 2018, the upfront price of an electric vehicle was still on average higher than that of a traditional gasoline vehicle. However, the true price of a vehicle includes the lifetime costs of owning and operating it. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute, which examined lifetime costs of the electric Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, showed electric vehicles performed in many cases better than conventional vehicles, due to cheaper fuel and lower maintenance costs.
To subsidize the upfront costs, governments in major countries and cities where electric vehicles are prominent offer financial incentives to electric vehicle buyers. The U.S. Federal government provides a tax credit of up to $7,500 for buyers who purchase qualifying electric vehicles.
Regardless, the upfront costs of electric vehicles will likely fall over time. According to Reuters, major car manufacturers recently invested at least $90 billion into batteries and electric vehicles. This investment combined with rapidly improving battery technologies and dropping battery prices, will also drive down the cost of owning electric vehicles.
2. Consumers believing there are not enough public charging options available
Despite the benefits of electric vehicles, the general public is still hesitant to make the switch. Among respondents to a 2018 AAA survey, 63% cited not enough places to charge as a reason they were unsure or unwilling to choose an electric vehicle as their next car.
While most current electric vehicle owners charge at home, not every driver has home charging access, particularly those renting and living in apartments. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), cities in the U.S. tend to have less public charging per capita and have the highest ratio of electric vehicles to public charging.
In response to the charging shortage, state governments such as California, New Jersey, and New York have announced combined investments of $1.3 billion to build more public charging infrastructure. While consumers wait for more charging stations to become available, there are startups with technology solutions that currently enable electric vehicle owners to access everyday charging.
A California-based startup, EVmatch, is mobilizing the sharing economy to increase access to reliable electric vehicle charging options in a similar way to Airbnb and Uber. Using the EVmatch app, electric vehicle drivers find and reserve charging stations rented out by homeowners and businesses, increasing public charging options without needing new hardware.
Heather Hochrein, the Millennial founder and CEO of EVmatch, says that “we’re approaching public EV charging in a fundamentally different way. By using a peer-to-peer network, we offer reservable and affordable charging simply by taking advantage of existing resources.”
3. Consumers fearing they may run out of charge while driving
According to the same survey, 58% of consumers said they wouldn’t go electric because they feared running out of charge while driving. The average range of an electric vehicle today is 194 miles compared to the range of traditional gasoline vehicles which is 418 miles.
However with increasing investments into and improvements to technologies, the likelihood of running out of charge will diminish as the driving range for electric vehicles increase, and faster and more charging services become available.
There are currently three levels to electric vehicle charging speeds, and the difference among the three levels is significant. Level 1 can add two to five miles, while Level 3 can add 180 to 240 miles from a one-hour charge respectively.
Though charging speed can be appealing for consumers, it is arguably more important to have a charge when you need it. U.S. venture, Volta is trying “to build the most useful charging network for the amount of capital,” says Scott Mercer, CEO & Cofounder of Volta, by constructing public charging stations where there is the highest traffic and visibility.
Volta “partners with businesses to set a [charging] speed that matches the speed of the customers,” says Mercer. In this way, Volta can provide free sponsored public charging stations that integrates with everyday activities – charging your vehicle during a 30 minute visit to the grocery store or a two hour movie at the local cinema.
Additionally if you are fortunate enough to work for a company which supports electric vehicles, you may be able to access mobile charging solutions. FreeWire Technologies founded in 2014, manufactures mobile electric vehicle charging stations. Their Mobi charging unit can be booked by workers via their app, charging electric vehicles while parked at work.
As public pressure to address climate change grows, governments, utilities, advocacy groups, private businesses, and startups are responding to drive a shift to an electrified transportation system.
States like California that have the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) programrequire auto manufacturers to offer specific numbers of clean cars, including electric vehicles, to consumers. Nine other states so far have joined California in adopting the ZEV program, accounting for over 30% of the U.S. auto market. As more states adopt the ZEV program, automakers will have no choice but to offer more affordable and diverse electric vehicles.
That’s why cities and states are focusing on consumer education with plans to increase public charging installations while, at the same time, private startups are developing innovative solutions to increase access to electric vehicle charging. Los Angeles hopes to install 25,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2025, up from 1,800 today. And New York recently announced a $250 million investment in DC fast charging stations to be installed along major corridors and John F. Kennedy Airport.
These efforts are beginning to pay off. In the U.S., electric vehicle sales have been hovering around 1% for the last two years, but electric vehicle sales in April 2018 were 1.74% of total light vehicle sales. To compound this fairly significant and rising growth in market share, 2018 saw an 81% increase in electric vehicle sales from 2017. It’s clear that the electric vehicle movement is coming , and drivers should make the switch that may prove decisive in the fight against climate change.