In his Finishing Line column on page 78 in this issue, Bob Roman discusses several technologies that are disrupting the auto industry, among them online auto sales, mobility as a service, and autonomous cars. Automakers have also had to contend with the growing interest in electric cars. While Tesla holds the prime position as most successful electric car maker, every major manufacturer has dipped their toes in the electric waters to some degree or another. From Toyota’s hybrid vehicles to GM’s Volt to Nissan’s Leaf to Ford’s recently introduced Mustang Mach E. Now there’s talk of an all-electric Ford F150 — could that mark the final surrender of the internal combustion engine?
Such an assessment might be premature, but the writing is on the wall. The Zero Emission Transportation Association, or ZETA, advocates for 100 percent of new vehicles sold by 2030 to be electric. Among the association’s 28 founding members are, not surprisingly, ConEdison, Duke Energy, PG&E, Lucid, and Tesla. While the U.S. consumer adoption rate of electric vehicles (EVs) seems to render ZETA’s goal a long shot, other countries are much further along in their zero-emissions quest.
A recently released international study by StressFreeCarRental.com ranks the United States 10th in the world when it comes to adopting EVs. The criteria included number of vehicles sold, population, people per EV, number of public charging stations, and number of EVs per charging station. For example, in the number-one ranked Netherlands, fewer than 300,000 EVs have been sold, but that translates to 58 people per EV. More importantly, the Dutch have installed 60,000 charging stations — i.e., one for every five EVs — in their relatively small geographic area. Norway, in the number two slot, sold nearly half a million EVs, an astounding one per 11 people, but with only 16,000 charging points installed, the number of EVs per outlet stands at 30. In the United States, 1.7 million EVs have been sold, second only to the 4.6 million sold in fifth-ranked China. However, there are only 26,000 public charging stations in the United States (one for every 67 EVs) compared to half a million in China (one per nine EVs).
According to an analysis by QuoteWizard.com released in January, California leads the way in EV adoption in the United States — 47 percent of the EVs on the road in America can be found there as well as 33 percent of the charging stations. Colorado and Vermont fill out the top three positions. You are least likely to find EVs in Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Consumer EV reluctance can primarily be ascribed to range anxiety — the fear of getting stranded with a depleted battery. This presents a chicken/egg puzzler: to encourage more EV sales, you need more charging points; to justify more charging points, you need more EVs. Perhaps we can help. You don’t need to stretch your imagination to realize that the free self-vacuum slots found at every express-exterior car wash are tailormade for charging-outlet installations. And while the vacuum is free, the charging need not be. Customers might spend anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes in the slot vacuuming, touch-up drying, and detailing their car as it charges. While this is not enough time to fully charge a car, it can add to the reserve. Of course, you don’t want customers occupying a vacuum slot for hours on end, and I’m sure that would not be their preference either. Again, technology comes to the rescue. According to Auto Futures, StoreDot, an Israeli start-up, has developed an extreme fast charging (XFC) battery technology that provides 20 miles of driving range for each minute of charging. Mass production is expected to begin in 2023.