Global EV (electric vehicle) sales climbed to 63% last year with China accounting for over half of all those sales.
When I was living in the glory days of my childhood, the gas scooter (or Go-Ped) was owned by practically every single child in the neighborhood. As soon as school was out, you could almost guarantee to hear the revving of a scooter’s engine getting closer and closer as it flew down the block. Adults began protesting the noise they made every night, so some kids had to settle with the electric-version scooter instead. The problem was that even though they solved the noise complaint, the kids who owned the electric scooters were quickly stripped of any pride they possessed and went home in tears each day from losing every single race to those who owned the gas-powered scooters. It was plain and simple: the electric scooter was slow and not as fun to ride.
Likewise, are EV vehicles the electric scooter version of cars? Let’s go ahead and gather a few facts, while also understanding why there is a rumble in Chinese EV sales before we make that assumption.
What is an “EV”?
There are 3 types of electric cars:
An EV, or electric vehicle, is essentially a car that is fully powered by an electric motor instead of a conventional gasoline engine. The energy the car uses is derived from its rechargeable batteries which can be charged at home or at any other electric charging station.
Another type of car that uses an electric motor is a hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). Unlike an EV, it does not fully run on electricity from rechargeable batteries. Instead, it relies on its electric motor for low speeds (typically below 25 mph) and utilizes its gasoline-powered engine for medium to high speeds (typically above 25 mph). While EV cars require a manual plug-in charge at home or at a charging station, HEVs will recharge on their own while driving on engine power, thus allowing you to forego charging the car every day when you are finished driving it.
The last type of electric car is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Much like a traditional hybrid, it is powered by an electric motor and gasoline engine. However, the difference is that its main power source is electricity and will only call on the gasoline engine when battery levels are low.
Are they cool?
Referring back to my childhood Go-Ped story, the concept of an electric scooter that didn’t need to be filled up with gas was definitely more economical, but the performance of it, particularly the speed, was subpar or not cool. Just imagine being laughed at by all the kids in the neighborhood because your scooter failed to keep up with theirs! (I recall a few of the kids in the neighborhood going home early and losing sleep from the conflicting damage of being the tortoise to all the other hares.)
So, are EV cars cool? Well let’s take a look at a few of the more popular models, shall we? Using the most recent report from U.S. News about the best HEV, PHEV and EV vehicles, while also taking information from each car-makers’ website, the list below will showcase the most popular EV cars by vehicle type and specifications.
Best EV: Chevrolet Bolt
Battery Range: 238 miles
Best Hybrid Car: Hyundai Ioniq
MPG: 57 City/59 Hwy
Best Hybrid SUV: Kia Niro
MPG: 52 City/49 Hwy
Best Plug-In Hybrid: Toyota Prius Prime
MPG: 55 City/53 Hwy
Best Luxury Plug-In Hybrid: BMW i3
Battery Range: 114-180 miles
Best Luxury Hybrid: Lexus NX Hybrid
MPG: 33 City/30 Hwy
They all seem pretty legit, right? The only arguable downside, much like the aforementioned Go-Ped, would be the vehicle speed. If horsepower means a lot to you, there are still a few “everyday” EV model options which are actually faster than some of the speedier gasoline engine options, but they do come with a hefty price tag.
Battery Range: 237-295 miles
518 horsepower! Yes, you heard me. I’ll say it one more time just in case you didn’t believe me the first time. 518 HORSEPOWER! An all-electric vehicle achieving this kind of power was unfathomable years ago – this just shows how incredible modern-day technology and innovation is becoming and what kind of potential is on the horizon. (Self-driving cars, submarine cars, flying cars – okay, now I’m getting way ahead of myself, but still!)
After glossing over the more popular choices of each EV type, are you ready to say EV cars are cool? I understand each person’s definition of cool may differ, so allow me to rephrase the question in multiple ways to help you decide:
Are EVs cool like athletes and celebrities wearing sunglasses indoors? (They think it’s cool, but I don’t.)
Are EVs cool like the mine cart chase in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? (Possibly)
Are EVs cool like walking into an air-conditioned home after being outside in 100-degree weather? (Wrong definition)
The only thing that matters is YOUR definition of cool, so I am granting you the freedom to decide.
Global EV Sales
The table above shows the top 5 countries for total EV sales in the year 2016 based on data from the International Energy Agency’s ‘Global EV Outlook 2017’ report.
China nearly doubled those sales in 2017 with 605,500 total EV cars sold. And now they are even off to a better start this year with 225,310 sold for the months January-April (up 149% from the exact same time one year ago).
So why are EVs selling so well in China? According to this article by the South China Morning Post, there are a few reasons:
- Government subsidies: The Chinese government offers subsidies for EV buyers of up to roughly $17,000 per unit.
- Charging stations: The State Grid Corporation of China (largest utility company in the world) announced it will build 120,000 public charging stations for EVs by the year 2020.
- Cheaper cost: Most EV cars sold in China are made by domestic firms, so they are able to keep their prices low and competitive against even the gasoline-powered cars. (The most popular EV cars sold in China range from roughly $12,500-$15,600)
What Is Ahead?
Remember POG milk caps in the 90s? What about the bowl cut hairstyle? (I won’t deny it – I had one, okay?!) Or Heely shoes in the 2000s? And don’t tell me you didn’t own a holographic Pokémon card at some point!
Some trends have sustained their rightful place in society, but unfortunately, most trends merely come and go at the snap of a finger. So, do you think EVs are a trend? Will America find a way to catch up to China in EV sales? With more and more stress on preserving the environment and state & federal incentives given to those who purchase an HEV, EV or PHEV, it looks like we will probably encounter a few more EVs pulling up next to us at our next stoplight.