Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityAutomakers go big on EVs, but prices and charging time still hurdles for drivers | KTUL
Close Alert

Automakers go big on EVs, but prices and charging time still hurdles for drivers

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV (GM)
2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV (GM)
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

General Motors highlighted its growth in the electric vehicle market as it released a quarterly report this week.

GM says this will be a "breakout year" for its EVs.

The company just captured No. 2 in the U.S. EV market, trailing far behind leader Tesla.

GM says it’ll make 50,000 EVs in North America during the first half of the year and double that output in the second half.

It plans to make hundreds of thousands of EVs over the next couple years with eyes set on an "all-electric future."

GM has ambitions of phasing out gas-powered cars barely over a decade from now.

But there are big hurdles to overcome for GM and other automakers aggressively transitioning to an electric fleet.

The hurdles largely boil down to time and money.

The cars, and trucks, themselves are “usually quite good,” said Kelley Blue Book Executive Editor Brian Moody.

“I think if the average American family were to drive one or own one, I think they would like it,” he said.

But he said the average EV costs around $60,000.

“I'm not so sure that we can continue to pretend like electric cars are something affordable for the masses,” Moody said.

The other main barrier for consumers is the amount of time it takes to charge an EV.

Moody said 80% of people who own an EV charge them at home.

If you can plug it in your garage overnight and be ready to go the next morning, then it’s probably not a problem.

But charging at public outlets takes much longer than filling a gas tank.

Another expert previously said the charging time, in real terms, is at best 10 times slower than the refueling time for a gasoline car.

"Consumers don’t have any problem with knowing they have to get more fuel in 300 miles," Mark P. Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, said during an October interview. "People are not stupid. But they do understand the difference between 5 minutes and 50 minutes, or 5 minutes and 30 minutes. And that’s what a supercharger takes to give you most of a refueling."

Moody said Tesla’s dedicated network of fast charging stations is one of the reasons it’s so popular.

Polls show Americans are hesitant to go electric.

A recent Gallup survey found just 4% of respondents already own an EV, only 12% are “seriously considering” buying an EV, and 41% say they won’t buy one.

EV sales are on the rise, but they remain a fraction of the overall automotive market. Only about 1% of the 284 million cars and trucks on America’s roads are EVs, according to the trade group Alliance for Automotive Innovation.

“As you move from novelty and early adopters into the mainstream (charging time is) going to be an issue for some people,” said KBB’s Moody.

He thinks consumers, however, will warm to the idea of EVs over the next decade.

Moody said choice is a good thing in the marketplace, and he thinks some good options are being overlooked as automakers pursue an electric future.

He said this “all-or-nothing” approach toward electrification is being driven by government policy to improve the environment.

But he said plug-in hybrids, hydrogen and even just improved efficiency for gas-powered cars can help tackle climate goals.

Moody gave an example of how smog alert days in Los Angeles, once numbering in the hundreds, had vanished in recent years thanks to better gas mileage, cleaner gas and improved emission-control devices.

“How did that happen? From electric cars? I don't think so,” he said.

“I think that there's an in-between that makes sense,” he added.

As EV production grows, there are questions about whether the resources will keep up.

Moody said the EV’s battery is about 30% of the cost.

And Mills previously said about 70% of the battery costs come from raw materials, such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, steel, aluminum and copper.

“The claim being made by people that technology will make the battery cheaper is essentially a claim that the world's mining industry will really quickly find cheaper ways to produce all those metals and minerals,” Mills said earlier this month. “There is zero evidence for that.”

Moody said that could keep EV prices high, even if supplies increase.

And affordable options will become more limited as GM announced that it is ending production of its Chevy Bolt EV. The Bolt has a starting price of $26,500 and is one of only two EV makes, along with the Nissan Leaf, to cost under $30,000, according to KBB.

GM this week also announced that it’s spending billions to expand its U.S. battery cell manufacturing.

GM wants to be able to make a million EVs a year in North America by 2025.

Can GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan or another legacy automaker topple Tesla as the market leader?

Moody said he doesn’t know.

But it would be a big climb.

Tesla sold over 160,000 cars in the first quarter of the year, CNBC reports, citing figures from Motor Intelligence.

By comparison, second-place GM sold about 20,000.

GM says it’s working to install thousands of fast-charging stations, which Moody said can help GM compete for market share.

Comment bubble

But Moody said it’ll be hard for a big carmaker such as GM to go fully electric in the established timeline.

Loading ...