The advantages of owning an electric vehicle are many, without a doubt. If you’re already lucky enough to have one, you could save $1,800 to $2,600 in operating and maintenance costs this year, assuming an average of 15,000 miles of driving. You can feel good about just refilling, instead of watching gas bills go up. And, of course, you can celebrate that you’ve joined the ranks of consumers who are more aware of climate change.
I recently traveled through the northeastern states of the United States in a Chevrolet Traverse and a Honda Pilot. So I’m not surprised that many would rather drive these cars than compete for an electric vehicle. The technical features – often taken for granted by owners of superbly designed German cars with a strong steering feel – make navigating suburban highways extremely easy. Thoughtful features and innovations include a blind spot sensor on the side mirrors to help change lanes, easy gear shifting, an extra row of seats that don’t make the car feel too big and a well-integrated interface like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. They’re now basic in new cars and I’d say cooler and more useful than Tesla Inc’s dance and celebrate mode.
Walk into a showroom today and you can walk away with a gasoline engine car too. An electric will probably take a lot longer. Add to that the fixed annual fees being considered, or already in place, in US states and the value proposition of owning an EV begins to fade. Of the 12 states that have proposed new or increased EV fees, 10 will charge drivers more than a gas-powered vehicle by 2025. In total, the cost of ownership is high and exceeds the price of the car.
Ultimately, people want a comfortable and easy riding experience. Of all the electric vehicle owners, few engage in battery logistics or emissions on a daily basis. The sad reality is that with inflation eating away at wallets, consumers aren’t so focused on being green or reducing their carbon footprint. And they can already feel like they’re doing their part to help save the planet by using less plastic or composting. Such is the human psyche.
It is also important to remember that traditional cars have also become better and more fuel efficient. Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 24% over the past two decades, while fuel economy has increased by more than 30%, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Meanwhile, all types of vehicles are producing record levels of emissions. There is no doubt, however, that once you start driving electric vehicles or even hybrids, the emissions go down further. But these are bonuses at this point.
The reality is that the hurdles for electric vehicles are increasing and most importantly is the growing list of consumer concerns.
Lowering these obstacles is not that difficult. This requires political guidance and the introduction of clear steps to address concerns. Range anxiety? Run fast chargers and upgrade networks. Many companies are participating, including FreeWire Technologies Inc., which recently signed a letter of intent with a pit stop operator, Phillips 66. Costs? Expand government incentives and credits for owners while discouraging internal combustion engine cars.
The United States is working to incentivize companies to expand things like electric vehicle charging networks and has just begun to innovate in battery and green car production facilities. But it’s slow and doesn’t directly address consumer concerns or cost of ownership. China, on the other hand, has encouraged buyers and manufacturers of electric vehicles and built the necessary infrastructure.
Making electric vehicles more accessible is not the challenge for the United States; political belief is.
More from Bloomberg Opinion:
• The United States is losing the race for electric vehicle batteries: Anjani Trivedi
• Do you want a family sedan? You’re not driving: Conor Sen
• US needs Elon Musk to sell electric cars: Matthew Yglesias
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Anjani Trivedi is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies in Asia. Previously, she was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion