January 6th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
Human brains are funny. We have a very hard time seeing past this moment. Even when we plan for things, it’s hard to genuinely put our minds in the place we’re planning to be in the mid to long term.
Think back to where you were in 1999. Did you expect back then that you’d have the phone, TV, computer, or life that you have now?
When you think about electric vehicles or solar energy, you most certainly think about the tech and prices we have today. It’s hard to think outside of that box, and it’s especially hard to put your whole brain into the market 3 or 5 or 7 years from now.
Perhaps you go back in time a bit and reflect on how the tech has changed, or appreciate that you’ve been able to go electric in the past year or three because of prices coming down and technology improving. Setting Tesla aside, you can buy a Nissan LEAF today that has the same price as a Nissan LEAF from several years ago but 2–3 times more range. You can buy a Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Kona EV, or 2020 Kia Soul EV that has nearly 3 times the range of a Kia Soul EV from just 3 years ago. And, yes, the king of the electric hill is the Tesla Model 3, which has long range, comes at an average vehicle selling price (in the USA), and demolishes the competition. It is a dramatic improvement over a Model S from a few or several years ago. In a sense, the place where we are now feels like the peak of a large mountain.
But it’s not the peak of the mountain. Electric vehicle market share is still at about 2% of the auto market globally. And the tech trends that brought us the 2020 Tesla Model 3, 2020 Nissan LEAF, 2020 Hyundai Kona EV, 2020 Kia Niro EV, 2020 Kia Soul EV, and other compelling EVs are not over. These tech trends have not hit a wall and left the market in a static position. These trends continue.
Electric vehicle batteries are going to keep coming down in price while specs improve. Electric vehicle production is going to get cheaper and cheaper as production volume goes up. Electric vehicles are going to keep getting better and better while their prices stay the same or drop.
If electric vehicles are competitive today with gasoline vehicles — and I think they definitely are — then what does that mean about electric vehicles 2–5 years from now?
One of the most interesting questions in this industry, in my humble opinion, is: what’s going to happen in 3–5 years when much more of the market realizes it’s not a good idea to buy another gas car or truck? Volkswagen Group is beginning to produce compelling, competitive, cool electric vehicles. It expects that 25% of the corporation’s sales will come from fully electric vehicles in 2025, and that overall 2025 sales will be similar to overall 2019 sales. That sounds aggressive on the surface, since we’re currently sitting at about 2% EV sales. However, I think that embeds a 2020 mindset or awareness that makes the project too clean. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I expect that by 2025 it’s going to be dead obvious to people that gas cars are on the way out. If that’s the case, whether Volkswagen Group can produce more than 3 million electric cars a year or not, who’s going to buy a gasoline car?
I was late to buy a cell phone, a smartphone, a laptop, and a flatscreen TV. I didn’t see a need for the first three and didn’t see a point in spending more for any of them … until the time came when I needed their functions. In the case of the last one, I was just on the market again and the cost was lower for better quality. In a few years, when millions of people are on the market for a new car, who is going to look at the options and not realize an electric model is the best thing you can get for the money? Who is not going to know someone who can pass along a good testimonial?
There’s still a big psychological block to going electric — most people still have “range anxiety anxiety.” In other words, they’re afraid they’re going to have range anxiety. Electric vehicle owners know this because approximately 80% of people’s first question about their EV is, “How far can it go?” Approximately 20% ask how long it takes to charge. Range anxiety anxiety or pure lack of awareness about EVs make EVs a non-option for approximately 97% of new car buyers today. However, as more and more electric cars get on the roads, the public will increasingly learn that range is not an issue and charging is easy. They will learn that electric cars are cheaper to own, have better performance, are safer, and are more fun. While we like to think of tech adoption curves as gradual and smooth, they are actually super steep and surprising. Even if we’re late, we adopt the new tech much sooner than we thought we would. Any forecasts based on linear growth end up being a joke. 97% of the public will not learn tomorrow that EVs are better are cheaper. But once we hit 5–10% EV adoption, it will be much shorter than we can comprehend before 80% of new vehicle sales are electric vehicle sales.
Anyone looking at today’s electric vehicle tech and trying to predict the future of the market is making a major error. You have to consider what the tech will be like in a couple of years, a few years, and several years. What will a 2023 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y be capable of, and what will they cost? How many Volkswagen buyers will look at an ID.Crozz, ID.3, or ID.Vizzion and conclude that one of Volkswagen’s gas competitors are a better buy? How many people will millions of happy Tesla owners and millions of happy non-Tesla EV owners reach with their enthusiasm for their vehicles?
How much better is EV tech going to be in 2023 or 2025? How much better with Tesla Autopilot or Tesla Full Self Driving be? How will EV superiority not reach the majority of the population by then?
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