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The EV Revolution

I grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and currently reside in Florida.


In the Beginning

At the turn of the 20th century, America was experiencing a similar disruptive "revolution" in technology that we are experiencing today.

Back then, automobiles began replacing the horse and carriage, and electricity began replacing oil and steam in a multitude of appliances. In fact there were electric vehicles even back then, such as the Detroit Electric. These EVs competed favorably with gasoline-powered vehicles and absolutely dominated when it came to ease of use at that time. EV builders used their smooth, silent operation and lack of a dangerous crank start to entice potential customers.

It's estimated that, at the turn of the century, one-third of all automobiles on American roads were electric. By the 1920s, however, mainstream electric automobility was essentially dead. Internal combustion engine vehicles had secured the marketplace, primarily due to the inability of battery technology at that time to be developed to the point where long-distance travel and quick recharge was possible.

The technology of the 21st century, however, has allowed for EVs to go 300 to 400 miles between charges and for recharge of over 100 miles worth of range to be available in less than a hour. As technology continues to improve the range of EVs continues to increase, while recharge times continue to decrease. Just as ICE vehicles displaced the EV at the turn of the 20th century, the EV is now ready to displace ICE vehicles in the 21st.

Below is a video which details the early efforts of EVs and their evolution.

Today's Top (American) EV Makers

I would say, at least for North America, potential customers in the market for an EV have two routes that they can choose, Tesla or GM (Chevy's Bolt).

There are a couple reasons why I want to focus on what I consider the two main options in North America for EVs (currently). The first is because these companies are, more or less in today's globalized world, American.

The second is due to comments like this from Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, who went on a rant about EVs at an annual Toyota meeting:

The Wall Street Journal reported on his comments, which included claiming that battery-electric vehicles were more polluting than gasoline-powered vehicles due to electricity being mainly produced by gas and coal in some places — something that has been proven false by several studies.

Not only is it already not accurate in most places, it’s also short-sighted to focus on that considering the electric grid is also rapidly getting cleaner as new deployment of renewable energy is becoming significantly cheaper than coal and gas.

Toyoda claimed that electric vehicles are overhyped as being clean:

When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?

The Toyota executive even said that “the current business model of the car industry is going to collapse” if the government pushes for gasoline vehicle bans.

Toyoda argues that electric vehicles are too expensive, and pushing for a mass transition to battery-electric vehicles will price people out of new cars.

The above Quoted from an Electrek article referenced below.

The Toyota Prius Prime (plug-in Hybrid) has been around for a few years now, however I don't believe Toyota truly believes in investing heavily into transitioning to EVs. In fact, that could be said for most Auto makers. The primary manufacturers other than GM and Tesla taking this seriously at the moment seem to be emanating from China.

The likes of Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, etc. seem, to be dragging their feet or all but ignoring EV efforts all together.

  • UPDATE: Ford is making efforts in transitioning to EVs as of 2021 as are others but this may be a case of too little too late as Tesla and many Chinese EV companies are years ahead of their capabilities today.
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GM came out with the Volt back in 2011, and the Bolt in 2017, so while Tesla has dominated the marketplace, GM at least has consistently put out good efforts as well.

Being the owner of both a Volt and a Bolt I can honestly say that Chevy put a lot of effort into these models, when compared to something like a Prius, they are luxury models capable of outperforming on every level, in every way. And in many ways they can hold their own to Tesla as well, especially in the cost arena.

The difference between buying a Tesla Model 3 with all the bells and whistles and a premium Bolt is well over ten thousand dollars difference in purchase price. And if you choose to buy a slightly used Bolt or Volt, your savings could well be over twenty thousand dollars.

The video below compares the two models.

GM Not New To EVs

GM’s EV production dates back to 1912 when 682 electric trucks were produced with lead-acid and Edison nickel-iron batteries. So they have been at it since the very beginning of their efforts at mass producing automobiles. The EV1 was the first mass-produced electric vehicle in modern times from a major automaker, produced to comply with CA efforts on forcing change into the marketplace in the 90s.

GM's stated goals as of today (12/2020) is to speed up the rollout of new EVs and offer up to 30 models globally by 2025, expanding on a prior target of 20 electric models by 2023. GM has set a target of annual sales of 1 million EVs in the USA and China by 2025.

  • UPDATE: GM has since modified these numbers and pushed back the dates for production, GM is also dealing with battery issues in the Bolt model and has had to halt EV production completely more than once in 2021.

While I expect GM to make great strides in the future, other than the Hummer EV rollout they have planned for late 2021, I have not heard much about these models that are expected to be available come 2023.

GM's 1990s EV1

GM's 1990s EV1

The upside for those interested in EVs but not overly familiar with them, or Tesla, is that all the "comforts" potential purchasers have grown accustomed to over the past generation or two GM offers.

GM auto dealers offer test drives, service stations and finance options, all the things people have grown accustomed to when shopping for a new vehicle or needing to take it in for its regular service are available.

This I believe will actually help many people transition to EVs, those who are not so tech savvy or inclined to consider environmental impacts, are not ever going to be the types of customers that go online and research the benefits of a Tesla, order it online, and patiently wait for a year or two for their model to be made and shipped to them.

The more EVs become mainstreamed into our lives, the more a company like GM is poised to benefit from it, if they set themselves up as they said they will.

Reference Material

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Ken Burgess

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