Image credit: NRMAdriversseat
When I posted on a report that says electric cars may not become cost competitive until 2030, I noted that price parity (or at least total-cost-of-ownership parity) is an important factor in achieving mainstream adoption. Nevertheless, there is an absurdity to discussing parity in costs between electric cars and their gasoline equivalents, because in reality they have no gasoline equivalents. Much like the fact that going solar is about way more than money, there are plenty of non-monetary reasons for owning an electric vehicle (EV). And given the fact that people are willing to pay way over the odds for some pretty useless crap on their cars, why not pay a premium for a superior technology?
OK, so superior technology is a subjective term. Critics will no doubt cite range limitations and charging times as serious drawbacks—and for some motorists they'd be right. But given that studies show range anxiety is grossly exaggerated, charging networks are becoming increasingly commonplace, overnight charging will be the standard, and fast charging is increasingly viable, EVs are looking like a pretty sensible option for the majority of motorists. (Given that multiple car households are the norm, and car sharing is commonplace, on the few occasions when an EV won't suffice, most of us would have access to something else too.)
But back to the price point discussion. If someone can get an "equivalent" gasoline car for $5000 or $10,000 less than an EV, why shouldn't they? The truth is, they can't.
While they may be able to get a gasoline car with the same internal features, the same size, the same look, or whatever else they are looking for—it will still be a gasoline car. Why shouldn't we pay extra for the knowledge that our car contributes less to the instability of our planet and the threat to our children's (actually, our species') future way of life?
In a world where people will pay extra for heated cup holders, leather steering wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, not to mention top speeds and performance that they will never, ever utilize in real world driving conditions, is it too much to suggest that some of us would pay extra for a technology that, if more widely adopted, could help alleviate some of the world's greatest challenges?
For me, this discussion does not negate the focus on cost and price-points, but it does put it into context. The way I see it, the challenge for gain more widespread adoption of EVs should be fought on multiple fronts:
- Working hard to bring the cost of EVs down.
- Pushing hard to make sure the true cost of gasoline is reflected in its price.
- Finding ways to make the planetary and social benefits of EVs tangible to the average car buyer.
- Exploring innovative alternatives to car ownership that help spread the cost of EVs across multiple users.
- Always, always remembering that the cheapest, greenest car is the one that doesn't exist. Bikes, buses, telecommuting and walkable communities come first.