The Paris-based International Energy Agengy (IEA) issued this report on electric vehicles recently, which suggests that national governments around the world are competing to be the leader in the new transportation technology of the21st century, setting ambitious deployment targets in the millions: 1.5million by 2015, 100 million by 2050; or half of all light-duty vehicles sold in mid-century.
But like EVWorld.com editor Bill Moore, I’m wondering exactly what this means. I’m thrilled to have someonetargeting an aggressive growth curve – and, in the process,acknowledging that without such a migration, we’re dooming ourpopulation to the ravages of climate change and other ecologicaldisasters. Yet I think we need to realize the difference between atarget coming out of a think tank and a phenomenon that actually happens in the real world.
The largest variable, arguably, is consumer demand. Carmakers can becounted on to respond to a population clamoring for a certain mode ofvehicle, and enterprising businesses will have no trouble sorting outthe charging infrastructure in a great hurry once demand is in place.Yet, as Moore observes in his article on the IEA report, “a body at rest tends to stay at rest,” reminding us that people resist change.
Will this be the huge issue that everyone seems to fear? It’s truethat people buy things (especially cars) that are an expression of their self-image. Trust me, I didn’t spend 30 years as a marketing consultant without running into that one. But we’ve all seen that the self-imageand sensibilities of large percentages of our population can change very quickly. And we’ve even seen very rapid change in automotive designs(e.g., the VW Beetle, muscle cars, station wagons, SUVs, andcrossovers).
Will that happen here? I can’t say for sure, but there’s certainly no reason that it couldn’t. Also, keep in mind that it’s possible that“going green” could become the cool thing to do. If we can offer theconsumer a high quality EV with a decent range, at a decent price, I’ve predicted that they’ll sell like hotcakes.
So could these Parisian boys be right? There are a great number of “ifs” going forward, but I’m hoping so.