It's Time for Automakers to Take the US EV Market Seriously

As vehicles sell out and automakers increase production, it's time to weigh in on the narrative that American consumers don't want electric vehicles.

Cadillac 2023 Lyriq
Cadillac 2023 Lyriq.


As of late, automakers have been pushing electrified vehicles (EV) with almost all legacy brands debuting an electric car or promising to go electric. But at the same time, automakers say there isn’t that much demand in the U.S. for them yet. This is why many of the latest electric cars first launch in markets like China and Europe. But is it really true that buyers in the U.S. do not want electric vehicles?

Just a few days ago Cadillac started taking reservations for the 2023 Lyriq electric crossover and in only 10 minutes all the slots were taken. Is that an anomaly? Maybe not. Last year GMC also started taking reservations for the GMC Hummer EV and those were filled in record time. What we don’t know is how many reservations were allotted for both vehicles, but it begs the question if buyers are raising their hands so fast for the new EVs, then why are automakers not building more?

One of the most significant new EVs is the upcoming Ford F-150 Lightning, which is a fully electric version of the best selling vehicle in the U.S. Ford only unveiled the F-150 Lightning a few months ago and it’s already received over 150,000 reservations, which is almost double the annual production that Ford is planning, once production is fully up and running. Although Ford has invested an additional $250 million at its Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, it doesn’t seem like enough if the extra investment will only increase annual production to 80,000 units. That number is a tiny percentage of the almost 1 million F-Series trucks that Ford sells per year.

While automakers have stated that demand for electrified vehicles is not as high in the U.S. as other markets around the world, a recent CarMax study shows that 55.9% of car buyers are “likely to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle for their next car purchase.” For the study, CarMax surveyed 1,049 current car owners about their interest in buying a hybrid or electric vehicle. More than 60% of people in the study said that a car’s fuel emissions are moderately or extremely important to them.

“The most commonly cited advantage of green-conscious vehicles, according to 68.4% of people surveyed, is that these vehicles are good for the Earth,” CarMax stated.

Eventually, it looks like automakers will respond to the higher demand for electric vehicles, but there’s now the question concerning how environmentally friendly they actually are. Previous research found adopting electric cars is far from the silver bullet to tackle climate change. EV critics note that although they don’t emit emissions on the road, building them does have some negative effects on the environment. What are the environmental impacts of building them and producing the electricity to power them?

A recent study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Energy Initiative found that battery and electricity production for EVs generates higher emissions than building a vehicle. Many of the electric grids around the world use fossil fuels, like carbon or oil to produce electricity. Building batteries for electric vehicles is also energy-intensive, since the process involves mining raw materials like lithium, building them in large gigafactories, and then transporting those batteries to the plants that build the EVs.

The good news is that although there are more emissions generated to build an electric vehicle compared to an internal combustion engine-powered car, EVs are offset by the long-term environmental benefits.

The study concluded the total emissions per mile for electric vehicles are lower than gas-powered cars. But the real environmental impact won’t happen until the electricity grids are weaned off fossil fuels. Sadly this will probably take a while to change, especially in developing countries, like India and China.

It looks like it will take a few years to improve the electric infrastructure for EVs, but automakers can still get us closer to an all-electric future by ramping up the production of their electric vehicles. Although it looks like production is limited for now, it won’t be forever, since several automakers have announced plans to electrify their entire lineups by the end of this decade.

View Article Sources
  1. "Green-Conscious: Exploring Americans' Views on Hybrid and Electric Vehicles." CarMax, 2021

  2. Green, William, et al. "Insights into Future Mobility." Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Energy Initiative, 2019.