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Electric Vehicles: Thoughts on How to Increase Adoption in the US

mitra, shamik, infosysLast year, I went to the Verge conference in Washington, DC. It was arranged with a noble idea to get people from various industries, those who are on the different sides of the same problem, to sit in the same forum and discuss their issues. EV adoption, or rather the lack of it, was an area of interest for me and I was enthused by one of the panel discussions on that very topic. There were representations from utilities, regulators and EV companies. My question to the panel was why aren’t utility companies jumping all over this? The answers were a laundry list of all the problems utilities face. Having worked with utility companies for almost all my career, I was not surprised with the answer.

The total cost of ownership for electric vehicles in the long run is less than that of gas-powered vehicles. A quick check on Edmunds True Cost to Own® website proved that. According to the website, the 5 year cost to own a 2012 Nissan Versa is $33,863. One component of this is the cost of fuel for the 5 years, which was estimated at $10,184. In comparison, a 2013 Nissan Leaf has a 5 year cost to own of $25,830 with a cost of fuel, a whopping $2,187! Of course you will have to compromise on the driving range on a full tank /charge – 290 miles for the Versa compared to 75 miles for the Leaf. But then again, you can charge every night without going to a gas station. A study on the driving patterns in the US showed that 95% of the people drive less than 30 miles on way. And it is obviously environmentally friendly. According to the US Depart of Energy website, average emission for a gasoline compact sedan is 0.87 lb of CO2 equivalent, whereas that for an all-electric car is 0.54 lb of CO2 equivalent. And that accounts for the fact that nearly half of the electricity generated in the US is from coal.

So an electric vehicle is cheaper and better for everyone. Except maybe the petroleum companies. And you are not really compromising anything. So why is the adoption low?

Here’s my point of view, not based on research, but by hearing different people express their opinions in the last 1 year. 36% of the households who own cars own just 1 car. For them, the need of the car is for the daily commute as well as for the infrequent long-distance commutes. They would need the infrastructure and the technology to charge their vehicles along the way. What about the other 64% who have 2 or more cars? I just blame that on ignorance. Or what marketing managers would say the problem of generating adequate targeted awareness.

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2 thoughts on “Electric Vehicles: Thoughts on How to Increase Adoption in the US

  1. All good thinking, Shamik.. If I were an utility, I would also advocate the use of Solar Power. Since most of the EVs are used for commuting to work and are parked for long stretches of time on company lots, it makes sense for me to work with companies – big and small, to help install Solar in most of the areas of their parking lots. My utility will cover most of the installation costs, but I get to charge the EV owner a low rate for charging up. Since this is all happens during the day, I get to take whatever surplus back to my grid and better meet the peak load conditions during the day.. Its a win-win for everyone – for companies and its employees with cheap charging (with shaded parking!) and my utility will sure to recover the upfront cost over time (and hopefully a profit), while being better able to meet peak demands, without needing to significantly upgrade my generation facities..

  2. I’m still not sold on the idea of electric vehicle being all that good for the environment. The burning of fossil fuels is still required to produce electricity to charge up the EV so I would rather see the effort put into increasing our use of alternative fuels rather than “alternative vehicles”.

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