What Do People Want To Know About EVs?
We wanted to join in Earth Day advocacy, to show unison with environmentalists, and to do our small part to prevent further climate-triggered devastation. So we accepted an invitation to attend the Earth Day celebration at Ox Bow Nature Center in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Our Tesla Model Y was the guest star and an up-front-and-personal icon representing the progress that all-electric transportation has achieved in recent years. Hundreds of people meandered by the shiny new all-electric vehicle. I was in awe: there were so many things people want to know about EVs!
As a retired public school teacher and teacher of new teachers, I know that many individuals are reluctant to ask questions. They may be embarrassed to admit they don’t know enough about a topic. They haven’t been supported in asking quality questions in their lives or education. They feel ill at ease talking to strangers — even to well-meaning people stationed at an environmental exhibit.
So when people slowed as they approached the white Tesla Model Y, I sauntered closer and asked them, “What questions would you like to ask about what it’s like to drive an electric car?” I also had posted a sign inside the open trunk, “Where is the engine?” to get them thinking.
And then I waited, looking them in the eyes, being patiently attentive and showing interest in each of them as individuals.
The crowd was a diverse bunch, varying in age, gender, race, and socioeconomic class. Their responses were fairly immediate and ranged from a full lack of knowledge about all-electric transportation to seeking stats about EV energy consumption relative to internal combustion engines (ICEs). Just about every person was grateful to have the opportunity to know about EVs in a deeper, more meaningful way.
What People Want to Know about EVs
“How much did this car cost?” We paid around $55,000 in November, 2021. The cost to order a comparable Model Y today is about $64,990.
“What does it cost for ‘fuel’?” We paid $42 for the last quarter’s electricity usage in our condo carport. We didn’t use a Tesla Supercharger this quarter, but we did snag some free electricity from the Fort Pierce City Garage, courtesy of Fort Pierce Utility Association.
“How bad is it for the environment to use coal-powered electricity to power an EV?” Sure, I said, it would be better if all electricity were generated from renewable energy sources. That being said, electric vehicles lead to lower carbon emissions overall, even if electricity generation still relies on fossil fuels.
“How far can you go in it?” The window sign that came with the Model Y says that its range is 330. I also explained that I really don’t like to drop below 10% and that we generally only charge to 80% to protect the battery.
“I’ve heard that the batteries only last 2 years. Is that true?” I replied that, while early prototypes had battery life concerns, most EV batteries come with an 8-year warranty.
“Is it hard to drive?” With a whole bunch of hand gestures, I answered that the steering is meticulous, the ride is smooth, and charging is a lot like filling up at a gas station — except it’s a lot cleaner, and it’s generally done overnight while we’re sleeping.
“What’s the farthest distance you’ve traveled?” I described a trip we took to St. Augustine and how we meandered up to Jacksonville — about 225 miles. We learned to use the Tesla Supercharger network on that trip, and I now find charging at Superchargers quite elegant.
“A Tesla is so fancy. Could I afford an EV?” It was important to assure visitors that the higher end EVs are not the only option. I related stories about our first EV, a used 2015 Nissan Leaf, and how owning a more limited range car initially offered us an introduction to what it was like to own and drive an EV. After gaining confidence and enthusiasm with the Leaf, we traded it in (at a price nearly equal to what we paid for it a few years earlier) and upgraded to the Tesla.
(looking into the frunk) “Where do you put your golf clubs?” We assured the superficial guy that the trunk was quite spacious.
“What happens if there is an accident on 95 and you’re stuck in traffic — won’t the car run out of electricity and leave me stranded?” That fear stems from a Washington Post misinformation story earlier this year about hundreds of motorists on I-95 in Virginia stuck for hours when a blizzard closed the highway south of Washington, DC. I explained that, if the battery gets to 20% charge, the car will do various things to make sure to preserve energy and lose as little charge as possible.
“Won’t having EVs in condo complexes raise all our insurance rates?” Condo concerns about EVs parked in common areas are frequent. Yes, Florida condo homeowners face higher insurance rates, but the source for those hikes comes from hurricane catastrophe costs — not EV charging on the premises. In fact, many Florida condo associations are discussing actions to plan for the increase in EV ownership.
Lessons I Learned about How People Learn about EVs
- Adults want to know a lot more about EVs than they hear in their everyday conversations and media stories.
- The media have a profound effect on the total picture adults have about a topic, and, because algorithms direct people to certain social media channels, people understand a topic from a particular and often limited ideology.
- Because traditional car dealerships don’t embrace selling EVs, adults don’t have a comfortable, familiar space to learn about EVs.
- EV advocates need to be much clearer and more explicit about the personal and social benefits of driving EVs.
- Women — who don’t have a background or particular affinity for ICEs — are very curious about EVs due to their clean recharging, smooth rides, and spaciousness.
- Children don’t have a predisposition to prefer ICEs, schools are teaching a fuller energy picture than ever before, and, as a result, lots of elementary-aged children already understand the basics of all-electric transportation.
- Youth and cultural organizations recognize that people want to know more about EVs, and these community leaders are quite receptive to the idea of sharing information about clean transportation.
- Sometimes it makes sense to educate people about EVs by indirect routes that whet their EV appetites.
If you are an EV owner, you probably also find yourself in the role of emissary to the new world of all-electric transportation. 1-to-1 chats with curious folks are a really positive way to smooth the road to mass EV adoption. Thanks for all you do!
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