Technology advancements are often a hurry-up and wait pattern. If you consider Geoffrey Moore’s theory in Crossing the Chasm there is a lull between product release and the early adoption phase when things start to ramp up quickly. The time leading up to that point is considered the chasm, where many new technologies fail to reach productization. Until that chasm is crossed and consumption reaches not only pure technologists but also the early adopters; manufacturers are innovating and trying to beat the competition to that point.
So where are we in terms of electric vehicle (EV) adoption? The fact is most auto manufacturers have either already released EV models, are prototyping them, or at a minimum have moved into hybrid solutions. This means we have crossed the chasm on EV adoption. EVs present a viable solution to costly miles and maintenance, demand is on the rise, and the EVs that have been on the road for some time are generally delivering on expectations of performance.
When will EVs flood the market and start to outnumber traditional gas/diesel-powered vehicles on the road? There seem to be some challenges in the production phase, where the cost of innovation and engineering is driving up the cost to the consumer and preventing consumers from choosing true EV options. The cost/performance ratio is not yet enticing enough to motivate the majority of people to shift their buying habits. The exception is those who are able/willing to pay for all the joy that Tesla’s ludicrous and insane modes have to offer.
The other aspect of this shift that will be interesting to watch is the inevitable change to infrastructure as we know it today. While some malls, city buildings and parking lots feature charging stations, they are not always easy to find, and when the mileage range is tight EV drivers understand that they may have to drive out of the way or wait for an open charger. Employers are starting to provide charging stations at the office to allow drivers to charge while they work. Whether it comes at a cost or as a free benefit to employees, this concept of distributed charging poses a significant shift to the way we are accustomed to locating fuel pumps and instantly having the fuel we need.
As charging becomes faster, ranges get longer, and cost of production decreases, EV consumption will likely reach the tipping point and become the new norm. Will gas/fossil-fuel vehicles be eliminated? This is one question that nobody knows today, but if we consider some other key innovations in the past century it seems like EVs will be the new iPhone, the new digital camera, or the new GPS. These advancements have forever changed the way people operate, and EVs could likely be another example. Imagine a world where fossil fuel pumps are reserved for those classic cars, those family heirlooms.
What comes next? Boats, lawn mowers, tractors, heavy machinery, at what point will these engines be more cost-efficient based on electricity? Once manufacturers are set up with the equipment and tooling to produce electric motors more efficiently, the floodgates will open. The EV story is still in the early chapters, and soon it won’t be something to write about, it will be the new norm and the next big thing will be on the horizon (flying cars, perhaps?).