Another psychological/perceptual issue is that EVs are being “forced” on people by the government. And while regulatory compliance is a real factor, Sanchez says once people experience modern EVs firsthand, they’ll discover that in many ways, EVs are objectively and demonstrably better than internal-combustion cars—not just from an environmental perspective, but also from the perspectives of driving experience and cost of maintenance, among other factors.
Incentives encouraging greater investment in infrastructure will help overcome certain barriers, and there are initiatives at the federal and state level to help move things along in this regard. In terms of increasing consumer awareness and excitement in EVs, Sanchez recommends a “butts in seats” approach. “Some consumers still have a perception of EVs as ‘wimpy’ or ‘underpowered,’” he says. “Although Tesla is changing that with its high-performance EVs, these are six-figure models outside of the average buyer’s budget. Even modestly priced EVs generally have impressive acceleration and responsiveness. Many people are genuinely surprised by the level of performance in modern EVs. I would strongly encourage any organization or business with a stake or interest in increasing the adoption of EVs to hold ride-and-drive events or encourage the public to experience EVs firsthand.
Major questions the space will need to ask and answer in the next decade include one posed by Jason Siegel, associate research scientist at the University of Michigan: What should we do with all the batteries that are removed from EVs in 20 years? He says: “We need to develop methods to quickly and cost-effectively assess and sort batteries removed from the vehicle to determine the most economical outcome for the re-use, remanufacturing, or recycling.”
Another key question, this one posed by the University of California, Davis’s Jenn, involves the future of transportation funding as society makes the shift to EVs. “The vast majority of (transportation) funding comes from gasoline taxes, but as vehicles continue to become more efficient or electrify, these funds will erode the revenues necessary to pay for transportation infrastructure,” Jenn points out. “Currently, many states are exploring the implementation of road user charges, also known as mileage fees, that may eventually replace gasoline taxes.”
As advancing technologies, government programs, and concern for climate change push the EV space forward, ecosystem players are working hard to overcome remaining barriers to EV adoption. Costs, though coming down, must come down farther. Charging infrastructure, though getting better, isn’t yet good enough in the U.S. But EVs are part of a bigger picture—a new transportation paradigm that will involve V2G power transfer, autonomous vehicles, and new types of mobility services that will, eventually, all run electric. As Jeff Allen of Forth Mobility puts it: “Everything that moves is going electric, and it is happening much faster than most people think.” Certainly, the future is electric. Just how quickly the U.S. reaches this future depends on how it navigates the remaining barriers to EV adoption in the next 5-10 years.