Is America ready for the electric car?

By Markus Bachman

The Tesla electric car is ever-so-popular (photo courtesy of Dylan Scarsone Apexpixel on Unsplash).

Major automakers such as Ford, General Motors and Toyota are investing billions of dollars in developing electric vehicles, or EVs. This is a daring move right now because an AAA survey showed a majority of Americans are not ready to embrace the 100% electric car lifestyle yet. Admittedly, I am in that majority.

Yes, I believe that gas-burning cars are a factor in climate change, but they are not the sole factor. Personally, until a few conditions are met, I am not ready to give up my gas-burning cars.

Some people may be crying, “But gas prices are going back up! It is getting too expensive for me to fill my tank. I would not need to pay for gas with an electric car.”

I remember when gas was $4, even $4.50, a gallon when I was in elementary and middle school in the Great Recession and early 2010s. Even though I was not driving, I thought those prices were crazy high. Gas prices currently sit at about $2.80 a gallon in the Twin Cities, which isn’t so bad when taken into context.

What will it take for most Americans to be open to embracing the EV lifestyle? There are four things I think need to be improved.

First, the purchase prices for electric cars need to come down. For example, the Hyundai Kona, a small SUV, is offered in gas and EV versions. The EV Hyundai currently sells for about $45,000, whereas a comparable gasoline version costs about $15,000 to $20,000 less. Another pitfall of an EV is that they usually depreciate way faster than their gas-engine counterparts.

Second, electric cars do not travel as far on a charge as gas-burning cars do. Most petroleum-powered cars can go over 300 miles between fill-ups, with some even going over 600 miles. On the other hand, the average EV can only go 200 to 250 miles between charges, assuming it is not driven hard. If someone drives an EV as if it were a gas car, the range may drop to less than 200 miles before it needs to be recharged. A battery-powered car may work for driving around town, but I would not use one for long-distance trips right now.

Third, EVs take a long time to recharge compared to refilling the traditional gas tank. When plugging in an electric car to replenish the battery, it will be several hours before one can continue driving. Gas-powered cars do not take nearly as long to refuel, often needing no more than 10 minutes before driving can resume.

Finally, it is not exactly easy to find a charging station to plug in an EV. Yes, there are charging stations throughout the US, but they are not nearly as common and easy to find as the traditional gas station. Even if one does find a charging station, there is no guarantee that they can just plug their car in, especially if other cars are already plugged in.

Most Americans do not want an electric vehicle until the prices of EVs are comparable to fossil-fueled cars, their driving ranges are comparable to gasoline cars, the recharging process only takes minutes and electric charging stations are as common as gas stations. Once these conditions are met, they may become the new normal someday.

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