How to Get Mass-Market Auto Buyers into Electric Cars

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In this second part of a two-part interview with Sam Spofforth of Drive Electric USA and Clean Fuels Ohio, I talked with Sam about converting mainstream automobile buyers to electric powertrains and zero emissions. We talked a bit about how to improve consumer awareness of EVs, how to convince traditional auto buyers to go electric, and positive signs we’re just starting to see on the EV market.

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Something that is not often acknowledged in the EV fan world is that legacy automakers can have a very challenging time trying to get their traditional, mass-market buyers to even consider the big shift to electric vehicles. After all, you can’t get people to test drive an electric vehicle and be happily surprised by the huge unique benefits of an electric powertrain unless you first get them to open their mind to the idea. We talked about how legacy automakers can go about trying to attract, intrigue, excite, and sell to those customers.

Sam talked a bit about the big, eye-catching decisions some automakers have made to advertise electric vehicles in major ways at key times, like during the Super Bowl. That’s one way to try to really impress traditional buyers and get them to realize that the automaker is taking this seriously. You don’t drop a million or two on a few commercials if you aren’t proud of your EVs and eager to sell them. You don’t advertise during the Super Bowl if you don’t think your loyal buyers should start thinking about the electric vehicle life.

Sam also talked about the need for grassroots marketing and word of mouth. At the end of the day, the Super Bowl ad may plant a seed, but it is people you know or meet in your community that will often truly get you to try out an electric vehicle and buy one.

I brought up the Volvo plugin vehicle ads that have caught my attention many a day. The things I love about these commercials are that they are so simple, they quickly pulling your attention to the point that you can plug an electric car into a normal electricity outlet, and they convey the message very effectively that charging is easy, super easy, about as easy as plugging in your phone or computer. I think many non-EV owners don’t realize that you can charge on a normal electricity outlet, so I’m happy Volvo has explaining this to so many consumers.

Sam also focused on how much the diversification of electric models is critical to quicker EV adoption, and that we are just now starting to get some really notable model diversification.

He also talked about the importance of having more-affordable (yet still long-range) electric models on the market, including on the used car market.

Sam’s talk of the importance of these lower-cost, mass-market vehicles and greater model diversity got me to specifically discuss the Ford Mustang Mach-E and, much more so, the Volkswagen ID.4. While several models, like the Mach-E, sort of go into Tesla’s realm in terms of cost, tech, and features, the ID.4 is actually targeting a more practical, mainstream demographic. It comes in significantly lower in cost than the Mach-E, the Tesla Model Y, or even the Tesla Model 3. It starts to get into a sector that sees an enormous number of vehicle sales. In fact, I recently did a cost-of-ownership analysis comparing the ID.4 to a Toyota RAV4. I didn’t know what the result would actually be, but I wasn’t shocked to see that the ID.4 was typically a cheaper vehicle to own while also offering much better features and performance than the RAV4. Similarly, the ID.4 easily beats the Volkswagen Tiguan — if you want to be objective about it.

Overall, there are several positive trends and signs showing that electric vehicles are increasingly competitive with some of the most popular mass-market models. For much more on any of these topics or others, check out the podcast itself.

Also be sure to listen to the first half of this two-part interview: “Drive Electric USA — CleanTech Talk Podcast.”

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