The mainstreaming of EVs … what’s your take?

by Jun 29, 2017

As part of my role at Shelton Group, I attend a lot of energy and environmental industry conferences. This spring and early summer has been no exception, and the conferences have lined up in rapid succession.

From Detroit, MI, to Denver, CO, and Portland, OR, I’ve seen plenty of case studies shared, opinions spouted and panel discussions executed. Of course, some of the oldie but goodie topics abounded, but plenty of newer topics have risen to the surface – circular economy, Internet of Things, and the interplay of Big Business and the environment under the new administration. That said, one topic has continually surfaced during this 2017 conference season, no matter if the gathering was focused on energy efficiency or if it had a broader sustainability focus. I’ve seen manufacturers with booths set up showcasing the topic, noticed session agendas dedicated to the topic, heard panel discussions with a variety of viewpoints swirling and even sat in on a case study presentation delivered on marketing campaigns that are currently in market. The topic? The mainstreaming of electric vehicles (EVs).

Which comes first? The charging station or the EV sales? 

Back in mid-April of this year, Suzanne blogged on this topic and shared a Shelton Group point of view. Part of what she discusses there is the divide between two schools of thought in the utility industry: install EV charging stations now to prime the pump for EV sales vs. wait until the charging stations are needed based on demand from more EVs taking to the streets.  Broadly, the Shelton POV is that the installation of stations paves the way for the social norming of EVs and helps curb one of the top reasons (if not the top reason) that inhibits EV sales – range anxiety.

There are positive signs …

Based on the recent conferences that I have attended, overall, it seems conceivable that the mainstreaming of EVs may be taking a greater hold. For example, one presentation I saw showcased a current utility program that provides a rebate of up to $2,000 when a utility customer purchases or leases a new EV. Additionally, their research into EV purchase motivators confirmed that green does not sell EVs – it’s simply table stakes. What does sell EVs are the same benefits that sell most fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicles – performance, savings on gas over the life of the vehicle, paint choices, interior bells and whistles, etc.

But …

What ensued after the on-stage presentation gave me pause. Multiple audience members commented on reports from dealerships that leases are not being renewed at the anticipated rate, and sales of new EVs are on the decline. This comes even with current model EVs receiving better reviews than their predecessors.

This again made me think … what is the biggest thing holding EV sales back from skyrocketing? Is it the lack of charging stations? Or decreasing tax credits, or the absence of utility rebate programs? New taxes on EVs to compensate for the gas tax that EV owners no longer pay? Relatively lower gas prices? Or, do you have even another thought?

We’d like your take – submit a comment below.

We’ll read through the collected comments and circle back after a few weeks to share what we heard and offer up ideas for how to keep EVs on the road to the mainstream.

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About the Author

Mike Beamer

Mike is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.


  1. Joseph Barletta


    Very interesting article. We’ve been installing EV charging stations for EV owners, commercial & utility companies since the company opened in 2007. Here’s the deal, range anxiety is a concept that only exist amongst non-EV owners. True you cannot have the egg and the chicken at the same time, but case studies show that if you build it, they will definitely come. The question is, how many and how frequent will they arrive? Momentum inside the EV sales industry needs 3 components to see the acceleration it needs (with the exception to Tesla).
    1. Sales from the OEM’s must get better, e.g. marketing, incentives, knowledge, support, etc. OEM’s are awful at selling their own EV products as many EV owners in less popular EV friendly cities can attest to.
    2. Utility company incentives should be across the board, hands down the most popular amongst this sector. Utility companies have an opportunity to recapture huge losses of power revenues they are experiencing from solar, wind and other efficiencies in the power generation marketplace.
    3. Government incentives continue to hold their own with accelerating sales, but with the federal rebate dwindling once the 1st EV OEM hits 200K in sales (Tesla to approach in later 2018), and most States pulling back on their “alternative fuel” government funds, as seen with Atlanta in 2015, we’re still way too reliant on this and the later two factors to fuel the movement.

    Think about it for a second, the aforementioned are 3 industries that hold the largest weight in determining how fast the EV movement accelerates and guess whose presence is behind a large portion of each? Yep, you guessed it…..oil companies!

    Perhaps, we can all pull together and fund a huge campaign for increasing the awareness for EV’s 10-fold across the nation. There’s got to be grant funds out there for this, but the way I see it,

    1. Increase public awareness on how much more beneficial EV’s can be inside there own lifestyles (little-to-no maintenance, lower insurance, reliable, dependable, no range anxiety, convenient & safer refueling, cheaper, safer, more efficient, more technologically advanced, better on environment, increase air health standards, etc.)

    2. Increase public awareness on showcasing how we’ve been blindly manipulated for the past century by foreign oil companies since the start of the modern oil industry, break the cycle.

    3. Get butts in seats w/ no pressure to purchase, ONLY experience and increase awareness!

    Once you drive an EV and embrace 1. & 2. there is no doubt this will be the key to the acceleration of the EV movement, regardless of what the later 3 influencing factors do. This is the secret behind Tesla’s business model for EV’s and the fact that other EV OEM’s fail at this very concept EVeryday and don’t EVen come close can be discouraging, but there is still hope, there will always be hope and it starts with your choice. Sometimes, that’s all you have and all you need. Choose EV~


    Joseph Barletta
    Founder & CEO,
    Smart Charge America
    Office: (512) 900-1858
    Mobile: (504) 220-7605
    [email protected]

    Think of it. We are blessed with technology that would be indescribable to our forefathers. We have the wherewithal, the know-it-all to feed everybody, clothe everybody, and give every human on Earth a chance. We know now what we could never have known before — that we now have the option for all humanity to make it successfully on this planet in this lifetime. Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment.


  2. Ed Perry

    I have $1000 down on the model 3 Tesla, but am also considering the Bolt and drove over 2 1/2 hours just to test drive one. I really liked it. However, what is holding me back from buying it is the lack of quick charging stations and the fact that you can only get 90 miles per 1/2 hour of charge compared to Tesla’s 150 miles per 1/2 hour of charge. Moreover, Tesla’s charging network is now not only larger, but they are going to double the size of it. So for me, fast charging stations are crucial.

  3. Dave Hatchimonji

    How are people “learning” about EVs? Word of mouth, EV dealer (as the 1st point of entry), Google searches, magazine article and which type (car, cooking, lifestyle, etc. you can tell I’m over 50 by referencing magazines), social media, and such? Then, how does that initial fact finding influence purchases (they buy or don’t buy, the buy a specific make/model)?

    You all at Shelton do great work and making a lot of it available at no cost. For local gov’t sustainability programs who can’t have a budget for these fee for services and information, it is very appreciated!

  4. Susan Hopp

    This has been a question on my mind as well. I’ve already decided my next car will be the new Bolt – motivated by driving down my GHG footprint and raving reviews of owners in my sustainability-driven local community. Living in the greater SF Bay area, availability of charging stations is not so much an issue. Nevertheless, it is truly perplexing that GM/Chevy is not doing more active marketing. But after hearing from one overjoyed owner and then verifying that the first maintenance check is at 150K miles, I wonder if the lackluster marketing has something to do with pushback from the (powerful) dealer networks of the big auto companies. Certainly much of dealership revenue must come from maintenance of combustion engine autos? Tesla, of course, does not have these legacy issues. EVs are a disruptive technology, facing typical challenges, including going up against powerful entrenched forces…

  5. Erik

    Up here in Canada, the Lower Mainland of British Columbia to be exact, we’ve seen accelerating EV sales over the past 5 years. We still have a long way to go, but here are some of the reasons why EVs are selling well here, and how we could be selling more:

    1. We have a government incentive – $5000 off the sticker price of a new EV, $2,500 off certain plug-in hybrids – capped at $77K (sorry no pre-Model 3 Teslas folks).

    2. We have a car scrapping incentive – $6000 if you scrap your dirty old car and replace it with an eligible new ($6K incentive) or used ($3K incentive) EV. This incentive and the incentive listed above have been a strong driver in EV sales in this province, tipping the scale for buyers who are finding the cars still a bit too expensive for what they offer. Every province in Canada offers something (or nothing) different – BC is in the top 3 provinces for incentives, and we are in the top three for EV sales, no coincidence there. Both of these incentive programs have, or are, running out of money – EV demand is outstripping supply (this will be one of my gripes later on).

    3. We went hard on EV chargers first – there are over 1000 public charging stations in BC, and that number is growing. Most of these are Level 2 (240 Volt, 40-ish Amps) and this has created visibility for EVs in the public, as well as turn the tide for some of the more range-anxious buyers out there. These chargers are focused heavily in urban areas, but there is a solid and growing fast charge network along major roadways covering most of the lower part of the province. Roadtrips in an EV in BC are possible! Fancy that.

    4. We are pounding the pavement with outreach to build awareness about EVs in this province. Our brand Emotive ( ( has been talking to the public, business owners and other organizations since 2014. With nearly 200 events and over 2000 EV test drives under our belt, we have contributed to bringing EVs into mainstream knowledge. We sell the idea of EVs based on the experience, more bums in seats = more potential buyers. EVs are better vehicles in almost every way, so their not hard to sell once you try one.

    5. We see EV charging and EV buying as a whole-system issue – You charge at home, at work, and at play. With, we have already developed a program and website to help Condo owners sort out the EV charging problem (hint: it’s a big problem) and we’re now working on helping business owners respond to employee demand for charging at work (stay tuned).

    6. The climate change debate is a non-starter here. We enjoy low carbon electricity throughout the province with pretty clean Hydro power almost province-wide. It helps to sell these cars when your power source is as green as the car, and it costs about $1 (yes, $1 CAD!) a day to fuel.

    Here’s some reasons why we’re not selling more:

    1. We need better policy to drive the availability of these cars. Manufacturers are not required to sell EVs in BC, so everything Joseph Barletta said above about manufacturers and dealers applies. Right now, demand outstrips supply – people are waiting months to get their cars. That’s not how you sell cars. OEMs and dealers know this and they need to do better to market these vehicles.

    2. Technology and preference – EVs are still pre-mainstream in BC and although they are coming fast, the price and charging standards chaos between the manufacturers is causing some uncertainty in the market. There are a number of reasons for hesitancy in the market (price, perceived range, range, weight class of vehicles, etc) but it is shifting. There is good research being conducted in Canada about EV consumer preferences and you can find it here:

    3. Home charging – I mentioned this one earlier, but the inability to get chargers installed in new or existing condo buildings is making it tough for condo-dwellers to buy EVs. Although some requirements are being put in place for new buildings, there are thousands of stratified buildings here that will be costly to retrofit. EVCondo helps with this a bit, but what’s needed is some requirements in the legislation that governs stratas, to require them to consider EVs more carefully than they do now. There’s a lot of challenges with this issue, and EV demand and volumes in the province will likely be a driver of this more than anything.

    and of course… Price and Range – British Columbians (and to be exact those that live in the lower mainland) don’t drive that far on a daily basis – about 30kms on average. So EVs shouldn’t be a problem. But in the land of the strong and free, we like to think we drive 150 kms, uphill both ways everyday to get to our outpost.. er… workplace. There’s a perception problem here with EVs. People don’t know yet how reliable they are, how well built they are, and how easy they are to maintain. They also operate pretty well in the cold, which seems to be an issue further North and further East. Again, this is changing, but its a proves of experiencing the cars personally.

    But to answer the question you asked – yes, you gotta have chargers first at this stage. People will always buy luxury EVs without a plan to charge (trust us, we get calls all the time from Tesla owners about how to charge the cars, no offence Tesla…), but the middle class are more astute, careful consumers. They need to know that they can do everything they want to do in a car before they buy it. Here’s my bet: once there are a full range of vehicle classes, ranges hit 4-500km per charge, and the price totals under $35K, dinosaur-juice cars will be an endangered species.

  6. Barry & Barb

    Last year my wife and I bought a new 2016 Volt as our only vehicle. We chose this car primarily because we want to reduce our carbon footprint. We did it with a bit of trepidation over the car’s complexity but then decided we’d make it an “old age challenge” (we were 74 and 72 when we bought it) to learn how to use the car to obtain best range. I’m also intrigued by the car’s technology and have been trying to learn more about its drive train behavior. Except during cold weather we get an estimated range up to about 72 miles and all of our routine daily driving throughout the Syracuse metropolitan area is electric only. We’re in the process of switching to renewables for our electricity source so that we’ll have a vehicle that, for the majority of its use , operates on renewable energy sources. We burn gasoline only when we take trips outside the local area and in very cold temperatures when occasional use is required (usually by the car, not us). My wife uses her PlugShare app. and we sometimes locate charging opportunities but there are other times when none are available and we must use the IC engine. We have listed our station on PlugShare but, as there’s little reason for anyone to come to the neighborhood in which we reside, doubt that we’ll get many takers. We certainly wish there were more charging stations. When we suggest something like the Bolt to friends they profess range anxiety. I’m not sure whether that’s real or just a rationalization for not switching to an EV. It it really is a concern more charging stations would help. I was car enthusiast through my teens and into my twenties but in recent decades have seen a car simply as a necessary evil. If, even as recently as a couple of years ago, someone suggested that I’d ever again be wildly enthusiastic about a car I’d emphtically deny that, with a laugh attached. My goodness, how my attitude has changed since last July!

  7. Dennis Heidner

    The advances in EV and PHEV has been are enough that the physical machines themselves are no longer barriers to adoption.

    There are still many barriers to adoption that will prevent wide spread (not just coastal and urban areas) adoption until later into the 2030’s. During this delay any other disruptive technologies (H2 and even significant improvements in fossil fuel based vehicles) may radically slow the current adoption rates for EV, or even provide a low carbon alternative to EV’s.

    Range anxiety exists for all NON-urban applications of the EV. Removing the barrier requires far better batteries, wireless charging on the interstate freeways – nationwide (not just the big cities), Ubiquitous charging. Even then unless the systems haven’t been adapted for farm and heavy transportation – fossil fuels will still be used and likely to be more common in rural areas.

    The transportation in the urban areas – the electrification – could be more easily met by improving rapid transit, electric buses and trains. While there are lots of arguments for EV in the urban areas — many are cities Tokyo, Beijing, New York City, London — have significant populations that do not own or drive a car. They may never have learned to drive – because they have alternatives. Where as in rural communities and on the farms – the kids may start driving pickups, trucks and the farm equipment by time they are thirteen or fourteen.

    Several things must be done for the EV charging systems to become ubiquitous, first far more non-fossil fuel based generation must be built out. FAR FAR more. Remember we’d be moving from a high density fossil fuel to all electric – that means not only do we need to meet the electrical needs for residential, commercial and industrial segments – but also the transportation that supports them. Here’s the chart at Lawrence Livermore National Labs that helps explain the size of the need.

    Next look at how the utilities that must build out the grid infrastructure that is needed — how they see the problem and expect to meet resource needs. For this I’ll recommend walking through and reading the Technology Assessment Committee meetings for the 2017 Integrated Resource Plant (IRP) that is being developed for Avista Utilities in Spokane Washington. Their “TAC” presentations walk the viewer through the process that they are thinking about how to meet future electrical loads — including EV needs — and they project what they think that adoption rate might be (not in a highly urbanized area).

    You’ll need to step through the TAC reports because EV’s impact is discussed in multiple technical meetings — and it is worth understanding the magnitude of additional generation that would be needed ABOVE the simple population or economic growth — in order to support a fully electrified transportation network.

    Again – electrification of the highly urbanized areas is far simpler than the less remote areas and could be more easily accomplished by changing public use of cars in urban areas and moving to street cars, buses, subway, and high speed rail with taxis picking up the need to move some between those connection points.

    Because the electrification of the transportation segment will need such a large increase in electrical generation — the implication is to help meet those goals significant effort must be put forward into making the current electrical load/usage much more efficient. That means addressing residential, commercial and industrial energy use in all areas — lighting, heating, processes. entertainment. Energy reductions as a result of efficiency improvement is simply energy that becomes available for the transportation electrification.

    Next local transmission and distribution systems in many areas of the cities and rural areas are not sufficient in size to handle charging of a fully electrified transportation system EVEN if smart charging is used. It is a very erroneous believe to presume that with smart chargers every consumer will only accept the smart charging time schedule. There will be a significant size of the population who do not care and are willing to pay the higher cost (and the same people will complain about the unfair costs!!!!) This is human nature and to ignore it will simply result in bad grid/charging system designs. Some of this could be mitigated by adding significant amounts of storage next to the charging stations such that they impact to the grid is smoothed out — but such addition also carries an additional cost which would then be passed onto the electrified transportation consumer.

    While the electrification process is underway – we will still have significant oil/gasoline production within the US — lower consumption will result in lower fuel costs — slowing the adoption of EVs by many. The pricing increase for the fossil fuels will slowly increase overtime as the OLDEST refineries are not replaced with newer more modern ones – that means we are likely to have sufficient refinery capacity for perhaps 20+ 30+ years.

    If you really want to understand the market penetration rates for EV’s simply accept that the EVs themselves are acceptable as vehicles and they are not the barriers – instead look at the barriers for the more wide spread adoption.

    1. Those barriers as discussed above — ubiquitous charging everywhere — including rest areas and oasis along the highway, tollways and interstates of the US. Charging systems in all national and state parks.

    2. Wireless charging options on highway, tollways and interstate networks – and a unified id that allows one charging account to work on all the charging points across the system.

    3. Read through and understand the IRP’s for the smaller utilities, the rural utilities, the middle America utilities.

    Cheer leading for faster EV adoption does not speed up the adoption – its the addressing of the charging stations being everywhere and in the public eye that EV’s are here and easy to use that will make the difference. That includes the rural areas in which the nearest town might be ten – twenty miles from the farm.

  8. James Alsup

    I have a fantastic idea and design that has been built as a primary and makes charging stations secondary. Feel free to look over my introduction on linkdin and website. Presentation ready upon inquiry.

  9. James Alsup

    Its these type of conflicts that Im trying to solve problems.

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