Why are EVs so Little Controversial?

Talia Lee
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June 10, 2024

Cable news programs and politicians often thrive by magnifying minor disagreements into major controversies. Simply acknowledging a minor disagreement rarely generates much attention or support.

Nevertheless, the portrayal of significant controversy within the automotive market is exaggerated. There is minimal disagreement regarding electric cars. Nearly every aspect of the purported debate points to a straightforward conclusion: the majority of new car sales will transition to electric by the early 2030s.

The first-quarter electric vehicle (EV) sales figures sparked headlines about a slowdown in sales, yet these numbers require context.

In the first quarter of 2024, Americans purchased more EVs compared to the same period in 2023. The noteworthy aspect wasn’t a decline in EV sales but rather a deceleration in their growth rate.

Such trends are typical with any new technology. Following the initial enthusiasm of early adopters, there’s often a decline as a subsequent wave of more cautious buyers awaits further persuasion.

Recent research indicates that many buyers harbor skepticism but remain open to being persuaded.

Cox Automotive, the parent company of Autotrader, recently conducted a survey among a representative sample of the U.S. population to gauge their perceptions, preferences, and attitudes toward EVs.

The survey findings largely echo what has been observed in previous discussions on EVs. Many similar studies have yielded comparable conclusions.

To transition to EV ownership, consumers are looking for reductions in prices, enhancements in range, and an expansion of local charging infrastructure.

In addition to conventional inquiries, researchers posed questions uncommon in other surveys, seeking to understand when EV skeptics anticipate changing their perspectives.

Among those who currently express no interest in purchasing an EV, 54% anticipate overcoming their skepticism within three to five years, while 80% foresee considering an EV within a decade.

It’s worth noting that this 80% refers specifically to those who currently lack interest in EVs, not the entirety of potential shoppers.

However, 20% remain steadfast in their resistance to EVs. By 2029, over half of today’s skeptics anticipate being receptive to EVs, with this figure rising to eight in ten by 2034.

This timeline neatly aligns with the goals set by policymakers at both the state and local levels.

Seven states have made waves by proposing regulations that would prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered cars after 2035.

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency introduced new regulations aimed at curbing tailpipe emissions from new vehicles. These regulations mandate that most automakers must offer a lineup consisting of more than 50% electric cars by 2032. The implementation of these rules will be phased in gradually, commencing in 2027, with a progressively increasing number of EVs and decreasing number of gasoline-powered cars each year thereafter.

Initially, the agency had proposed a more aggressive timeline, but it opted for this gradual approach after consulting with automakers.

Automakers urged the government to set the target for the early 2030s because that’s the timeline they were already aiming to meet.

Several manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Jaguar, and General Motors’ Cadillac and Buick divisions, had previously announced their intentions to transition to all-electric vehicles by 2030. GM, as a whole, aimed to predominantly offer electric vehicles by 2035.

However, in recent months, some companies have adjusted their plans, postponing the release of certain new EV models and incorporating more hybrid options. Nevertheless, this adjustment does not signify a departure from EVs in their product strategies but rather a shift in the timeline for achieving a primarily EV lineup, extending it beyond 2030 by a few years.

Lastly, there’s the straightforward matter of momentum. Once a significant endeavor like a global energy transition is in progress, attempting to halt it is akin to trying to halt a speeding bullet train with your bare hands.

When the EPA unveiled its new tailpipe emissions regulations, I inquired with White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi whether the gradual implementation suggested a tentative approach to the EV transition. “The steel is already in the ground,” was his response.

Automakers are establishing new factories and reconfiguring global supply chains. Mining and recycling industries have emerged on multiple continents to meet the demand for essential minerals.

Several nationwide charging networks have been launched, vying for your electricity spending in a manner reminiscent of how Exxon and Shell stations compete for your gasoline expenditure. Moreover, additional networks are in the pipeline. A federal initiative has allocated $5 billion for charger infrastructure development, with these projects only just commencing.

The groundwork for propelling the nation toward a predominantly electric future is currently being laid and is not subject to dismantling.

In 2024, being an election year, EVs become a convenient political talking point, and it’s likely that cable news programs and politicians will attempt to exacerbate any perceived divisions.

Amplifying controversy serves as a tactic to either retain your attention or motivate you to participate in voting.

However, don’t be deceived into believing that issues appear as significant as they seem under the magnifying lens. The reality of the EV transition is straightforward – from public policy initiatives to automakers’ product strategies, everything is progressing toward a scenario where the majority of new car sales will be electric by the early 2030s.

Coincidentally, this aligns with the timeframe when most current EV skeptics anticipate relinquishing their reservations.

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