If we want an electrified future, we have to make it a lot more convenient

by Jun 30, 2021

Shelton Stat of the Week

In late 2019, 13% of Americans reported that they were interested in buying an electric vehicle – up from 8% in 2018. — Energy Pulse, 2019; EVs and GenZ, the Road Ahead

I’ve just returned from a family beach vacation, which marks the third time now that I’ve made the 387-mile trek in a Tesla Model 3. This is my third EV — I lease cars for 2-3 years so I can try out the “latest” in greener technology — and the first two didn’t have nearly enough range to make the trip.

So, the good news is that with the Model 3 or other EVs that now have a 300+ mile range capacity, you don’t have to have two cars (an EV for around town and a gas-powered one to make longer trips). The bad news is that because charging stations are still not plentiful and not right off the road like gas stations, Americans are still highly disincentivized to go electric. In 2019 we released findings from our latest round of questioning to gauge interest in and barriers to adoption of EVs, and found that while interest was increasing, the barriers of cost and range anxiety are still very much in the way of adoption.

Two years later, my personal experience bears out that those concerns are founded.

Though the Model 3 offers roughly 330 miles of range on the best day (mileage is impacted by temperature and driving speed), which is more than enough for daily driving, for an average American, there’s the question of, “Can I get in my car and take a trip?” If you haven’t seen a multitude of charging stations along the highways giving you a clear signal that it should be easy to stop along the way to wherever you want to go, then both barriers loom large. The mind will run away with, “Where will I charge? What if I get stuck? Maybe I can’t really use an EV for travel, so I’ll have to have another car,” and these are all big enough questions to stop the purchase of an EV.

Here’s the current reality:

  • While there are multiple charging networks, Tesla’s network is specifically for Teslas. The cars come with adapters so you can charge on any network (though if you don’t have a Tesla, I’m not sure an adapter exists so you can use a Tesla charging station). Tesla Superchargers are very fast by electric standards — you can get 80% charged in about 45 minutes — and they’re super convenient…you just plug in and the credit card associated with your car is charged. So no finding a card, swiping, etc.; you just plug in. As a Tesla owner, it’s a much better experience — faster, more reliable and more convenient — than other networks. With my prior EVs, on two occasions I searched for a fast charger only to arrive and find them out of order…cue the range anxiety. Another time I arrived at the only fast charger for miles and someone else had arrived just before me, so I had to wait 45 minutes for him to charge before I could. Cue the frustration.
  • Bottom line: if you own a Tesla, you want to use their Superchargers. (Some fast chargers get to 80% in 5 hours instead of 45 minutes with the Tesla Superchargers, and sometimes there’s just one. The nice thing about Tesla is that the Superchargers are more like stations with 6-8 chargers.)
  • We should add “time suck” to the list of barriers to EV adoption. In the American South, where I live, the Tesla charging stations are not super plentiful. I don’t have the sales data, but in the last year, I’ve noticed a LOT more Teslas in my area, which is great! But it means that, on a road trip, the Southern Tesla owners are all trying to use the same Superchargers on road trips. On three occasions I’ve had to wait in line to even access one of the chargers at a station, turning a 45-minute charging stop into an hour or hour and a half.
  • We should also add “inconvenient” to the list. While some Tesla Supercharger stations — and other EV chargers — are indeed right off the highway, many are not. My experience with Tesla thus far is that their stations are in hotel parking lots a bit off the beaten path — or in some cases 15 miles out of the way from the interstate I’m traveling on, tacking on another 30 minutes to the trip. And often there’s nowhere to eat within walking distance.

This represents a huge opportunity for convenience store owners, by the way. As a middle-aged American, my mental model is to take a highway and pull over to a major convenience store brand’s very clean travel center, complete with nice bathrooms and a fast food restaurant attached, all located a minute or two off the highway. The new EV charging model represents stress — I have to actively change my behavior and my mental model and work hard to do it. If I could instead perform my new charging behavior inside of the existing just-pull-off-the-highway-to-a-C-store mental model, it would be much more relaxing. And if I were still driving a gas-powered car and saw multiple chargers at these stations, I’d start to let down my range anxiety barriers, reassured by the fact that I can buy a new car without having to change my way of operating.

Again, a huge opportunity for convenience store owners — and we have forthcoming research to back that up. Stay tuned for that…and happy motoring!

News of the Week

Biden’s EV charging push could boost automakers taking on Tesla

This Reuters article covers the current bipartisan bill going through congress proposing $1.2 trillion for infrastructure projects, with $7.5 billion of it set aside for EVs. This is only part of the total amount McKinsey had estimated the country needs to deploy enough chargers for all of our EVs. Despite the gap, the bill is a positive move for infrastructure growth throughout the country.
Read more…

EV adoption is happening…in an unexpected place
Automotive News

This article details consumer’s anxiety to jump on the “wild ride” the automotive industry has embarked on as it largely transitions to hybrids and EVs. But there is a population that is noticeably less anxious about EV adoption, Twitter. Whether this is simply people joining the social herd or statistically significant is another story: but the conversation of EV adoption and the pressure of social media show that the swap to EVs is coming.
Read more…

Good Company

Americans are putting their wallets where their values are. They buy brands (or those brands’ competitors) based not just on corporate behavior, but on how that behavior is perceived.

So how do you protect your bottom line and safeguard your reputation, all while making the world a better place? Well, good works. That’s the simple truth, and as you’ll learn in this report, Shelton Group has the research to back it up.

You’ll also learn how your brand can apply our insights to share your good stories in ways that captivate the public’s passion – so you can gain a market advantage.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

1 Comment

  1. AOK

    Being on your third EV and still having so many complaints, maybe you are just one of those people who should not be driving an EV. You are definitely someone who needs to refrain from writing about it. Your writing makes it out to be a negative experience, without any focus on the incredible positives. For example, you focus on the public charging stations, but completely neglect to mention the fact that a typical EV driver charges their vehicle overnight at their home, and every time they leave their house, they leave with a full charge. Unless you are routinely driving over 300 miles in a day, you are rarely having to stop to charge at all. It equates to a major convenience, rather than the inconvenience you frame it to be. And even on a long trip, I have not experienced these far off the highway inconveniences you describe, even in the south. At most, a supercharging station is on occasion a few minutes further away from gas stations (many gas stations like Sheetz, Wawa, Royal Farms have them too), and most often are located in a place where you can spend the charging time on pleasantries like doing some shopping, groceries, or grabbing something to eat that isn’t gross fast food. There is something to be said for reframing your time to take advantage of accomplishing errands or catching up on emails.

    It is my experience that a trip that may normally take about 10 hours in an ICE (including gas stops), will add approximately 1 additional hour to the trip time when accounting for extra time charging. Not exactly earth shattering, especially if I plan accordingly on how I will spend that time, and a minor inconvenience for the other benefits achieved from driving an EV. Otherwise, I love being able to do things like visit friends for the weekend who are about 3-4 hours away, leave my home with a full charge, arrive at my destination nearly empty, plug my car into their 110 v outlet, and when I return home on Sunday I have a full charge to get me home. In an ICE, this trip would require 2 stops at a gas station, in my EV, zero stops. And a bottle of wine more than covers the cost of electricity.

    As you are aware but neglected to mention, when you enter your destination the car calculates where you will need to charge and for how long, so this concept of range anxiety is being dramatized here. Again, if there are any issues of reaching your destination, the car will tell you to keep your speed under a certain mph in order to reach your destination.

    The other networks of EV chargers are in far many places than most people realize, and I often will plug my car into public chargers, which are often free, that I see when I am out and about.

    You also neglected to mention how much cheaper it is to operate an EV. Mine has 50K miles on it and up until my recent purchase of a new set of tires, the only money I had spent on the car was windshield wiper fluid and tire rotations. Not to mention how much less money I spend on electricity vs gasoline. And since 95% of my charging is at home and I have solar (that has already paid for itself), I am also charging with clean, renewable, cheap energy.

    And finally, you didn’t even mention how utterly enjoyable it is to drive your Model 3. Literally driving is fun.

    P.S. – No, there is no adapter for a non-Tesla to use the Superchargers, although Elon Musk tweeted the end of last year they are working on it. Although I doubt all batteries will be able to handle them.

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