One reason this year is shaping up to be a critical one in the evolution of the electric vehicle is a little retrospective: 2015 had a red-lettered status in the vision the Obama administration laid out for electric vehicles (EVs) some four years ago. This year now looks likely to close with 400,000 EVs on the nation’s roads – somewhat short of the hoped-for one-million mark, which was originally projected for 2015.
Another is that gas prices, which have reached lows not seen since 2009, look as if they’ll remain subdued for the coming 12 months. Conventional thinking says that cheaper gas makes for a harder EV sales pitch on the forecourt. So, challenging headwinds for the electric car market in 2015?Possibly. But this is also a year laced with opportunity, showing a potential that throws into focus an often overlooked aspect of getting EVs rolling forward – education.
That the forthcoming year could be transformative can be seen when the EV sales numbers in the US are stacked up by state. There are now four states – Hawaii, California, Washington and (surprisingly) Georgia – which have firmly crossed the 1% threshold of new car sales. And critically, that means that EV adoption rates in those places are fast approaching levels where education can really start to make a big difference.
According to the widely-used social diffusion model of how new ideas and technology snowball through society, those who first adopt an innovation (like the EV) are an independent bunch. The ‘innovators’ do their own research, and make their own minds up on whether to try out the new technology, But in the four states mentioned we’re now reaching ‘early adopters’ territory – populated by those who look to, in part, the opinion of others before taking the plunge.
That opinion could come from the media. It could come from the experiences of those first ‘innovators’. It could also come from the views formed during the various educational outreach programs now on offer. And the significance of education to the progress of EVs along the adoption trajectory has probably never been greater.
That’s because there remains much work to be done to convince the wider public on the benefits of
EVs, as well as on what state and federal agencies can offer to help ease the way for EV owners. Opinion polls show that the vast majority of drivers know little about the incentives available to those driving EVs. Then there are the worries about range anxiety (or more accurately ‘range anxiety’ anxiety), which persists even though research shows it has little bearing on the day-to-day travel needs of many drivers.
Even the concerns over the much-discussed recent fall in gas prices can be assuaged, when issues such as the total-cost of ownership of vehicles are properly explained. After all, EVs have much lower maintenance needs, and continue to be much cheaper to run than gas-powered vehicles, even as today’s lower gas prices. The right information in the right places could quickly change these mis-perceptions. So here at SemaConnect we’re looking at 2015 as the year of EV education – when the efforts towards promoting wider EV knowledge can help push the electric car to the next level.
There are many existing programs and resources for educating the public about EVs. Here are a few we are aware of:
There are also numerous initiatives under the Clean Cities Learning Program (run by NAFTC). Check with your local Clean City Coalition for more information.
Martin Legett is a freelance writer from the UK, who specializes in writing on the strategic impact of environmental issues. After a 10-year sojourn as an analyst at Brady plc – a Cambridge-based provider of services to commodity investment banking professionals – Martin set himself up as self-employed writer at the beginning of 2010. Since then he has written for a number of environmental websites and companies– including cutting-edge clean energy startups – and has been one of the principle journalists for green news website, The Earth Times.Back to Blog