The Lifestyle of the Typical Electric Vehicle Driver

I have to say that I was impressed with most of the speakers at the EV Update show in San Diego last week.

Frankly, I didn’t expect to be. In the trade shows I frequent, I’m often shocked at how many presenters abuse the platform to promote their company, or the basic business concept that the company supports, while carefully ignoring or underplaying the competing forces. They appear to have not gotten the memo: The audience came in the hopes of learning something of value, not to have its head filled with your propaganda.

That was almost entirely absent here, I’m happy to report.

Oliver Hazimeh, a management consultant from PRTM did a great presentation with his overview of where EVs are headed and why. Of course, it’s easy to like people who agree with you. Like me, he sees at least 10% penetration of plug-in cars (plug-in hybrids and full battery electrics) by 2020 – a $250 billion industry built over this fairly short period of time. And we both put similar valuations on the potential of the adjacent pieces of that market: generating the electricity, figuring out the charging schema, integrating the billing, etc.

I was also intrigued with the comments of the Ecotality spokesperson, whose message was that the electric vehicles adoption curve is “about lifestyle.” His point was essentially that just as Starbucks addressed an unmet need for good coffee served in a space conducive to the lifestyles of a large consumer segment, EVs will do the same. Though they’re not for everyone, they will address a sizeable swath of the American market.

First of all, let’s acknowledge that he’s 100% correct that consumer acceptance is of paramount importance. And I have to agree that the consumer piece of this is, to some degree, “about lifestyle,” whatever exactly that means. Yes, there will be people who reject this idea until their dying day; yes, they’re not for everyone.

But I’m not sure how many people will hold out due to this lifestyle thing. Imagine a time (is it hard?) when gas becomes even more obscenely expensive than it is right now, and your EV-driving neighbor, who’s long-since forgotten the location of the gas station he used to frequent, pulls up in his driveway. How long do you think it will be before you ask, “Hey, Bob. Tell me about that…”

I have a feeling that this very phenomenon of word-of-mouth promotion, along with our growing awareness of what Big Oil has done to every single one of us — will transcend whatever we mean by the word “lifestyle” — our politics, our taste in music or film, and even our standing as technology early-adopters or laggards. Electric transportation is a concept that simply make sense for the vast majority of us — and is becoming an even better fit with each passing day.

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