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Plug-In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance is currently small but growing...

Monday, November 28, 2022

EVs On Brink of Mass Adoption

The electric vehicle adoption rate continues to climb. So far in 2022, nearly 7 million plug-in vehicles have been sold. This is more than 2019 and 2020 sales combined. EVs have now reached a 13% share of new car sales. Add plug-in hybrid sales to this and CarsWithCords have a 17% global share.

Source: Guinness Global Investors

A 17% share is significant. The upward curve signals that 2023 will likely exceed its predecessor by ~50%. Seventeen percent is important because it shows that EV sales have crossed the chasm of the technology adoption curve. The tipping point is at hand.

Technologies defuse into society in a predictable manner, following an adoption curve. As you can see above, the technology adoption curve splits the market up into 5 major groups based on their willingness to buy products in new categories. This curve applies to modern technologies such as smartphones, computers, and the internet but it also applies to older technologies such as telephones, electricity, and washing machines.

Early in a product's lifecycle, they are often cumbersome and difficult to use. This means only the most determined among us are willing to invest the time and mental energy needed to use these products. Slowly, improvements are made resulting in products that are easier to use and more affordable, so more people adopt them, moving further along the curve.

This generation of EVs started with the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf in December 2010. Back then EV ranges were short, prices were high, and charging infrastructure was scarce. Now, over a decade later and infrastructure has proliferated, ranges have increased, and prices have come down some. Increasing gasoline prices and government policies have also not hurt EV adoption. This has allowed EVs to move from the tech enthusiasts group into the early adopters group. 

Collectively, tech enthusiasts and early adopters form the early market. Sadly, many products never break out of the early market 16% segment. They remain niche products and never move into the mainstream. This gap between the early market and the mainstream market is known as The Chasm. Crossing the chasm is the difference between having a small enthusiastic following or changing the way that society functions. Consider the difference between ham radio and smartphones; you can communicate with either one, but they are at very different places on the adoption curve. 

Globally, EVs are on a course to cleanly jump the chasm with room to spare in 2023. This is something that hybrid vehicles have never been able to do. Entering the mainstream market means that economies of scale (see Wright's Law) begin to kick in, further reducing the costs and further increasing market adoption, creating positive feedback. 

Conversely, this means the legacy product lines that are being displaced suffer shrinking market share. This drives up their costs as lines are shut down and fixed costs are amortized over a smaller number of units. This further makes the choice of the newer product more practical; allowing the next segment of the late majority to follow the early majority. 

In 2014, we made the prediction that EVs would cross the chasm in the mid-2020s. It certainly appears that this will be the case for China next year and the rest of the world will soon be following. This will be fun to watch over the remainder of this decade and into the next.


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Why Tesla's Charging Network Should Become Everybody's

Tesla has changed their charging platform from a proprietary system to a standard system. This is exactly what we asked for in the article below back in 2017. In the original story, we looked at the capabilities and networks of each of the North American charging systems. Based on this review, we concluded that Tesla's charging system was the most robust and functional and we made the seemingly implausible assertion that all automakers should adopt Tesla's charging system. Well, a major step towards that goal has just occurred: Tesla will allow other charging networks and other automakers to use Tesla's charging connectors, ports, and network. 

Below is the article from May 1st, 2017. 

The fractured fast charging market: CHAdeMO, Tesla, SAE Combo (CCS) 
image via chargedevs.com

Charging is an important part of the EV ownership experience. If you have a living situation that allows for it, charging up at home is very convenient. It only takes seconds to plug in and your car starts out each morning fully charged, ready to take on the day. When you're on a road trip, things are different. You have to use the public charging network to fill up and keep rolling. This could be charging overnight at a hotel or roadside fast charging.

Up to this point in time EVs have been less than 1% of new vehicle sales. This means that they have been purchased by the portion of the market that is the most enthusiastic about the technology. These early adopters have generally been content (perhaps even excited) to hunt for charging stations and to mold their drives around the available infrastructure. As EVs move to mass adoption, this tolerance quickly fades; it will be important to have a vast, easy-to-use, reliable, fast charging network.

When considering public EV charging network infrastructure, you must look at several factors (speed, reliability, availability, access, usability...). Looking at the three fast charge networks (CHAdeMO, CCS, and Tesla), considering all of these factors, in our previous post we concluded that (although there is room for improvement) Tesla is the only charging provider that is currently offering a robust positive charging experience. Tesla has well-positioned charging sites; no membership sign-in, apps, or cards are required to initiate a session; there are multiple stations per location; the stations are fast and operational; and there is usually no waiting (at most locations).

Tesla has offered to allow other automakers to use their network. In 2015, Elon Musk said, “Our Supercharger network is not intended to be a walled garden. It’s intended to be available to other manufacturers if they’d like to use it. The only requirements are that the cars must be able to take the power output of our Superchargers, and then just pay whatever their proportion their usage is of the system.” This statement from Musk is aligned with Tesla's goal to accelerate the advent of electric transport (not just Tesla's cars).

To date, no automakers (that I am aware of) have taken Musk up on this offer. Should they? Below we'll explore what this partnership might look like.

Porsche's proposed 800-Volt fast charger

Proprietary Versus Standard(s)

Which fast charging type to choose?

If you were the head of a new EV program at a car company (such as one of the many new EV startups or a conventional car company getting into the EV market), you would have to determine which of the fast charging solutions you would choose for your upcoming line of EVs. The options are:
  1. Design your own proprietary solution
  2. Select the Japanese standard (CHAdeMO)
  3. Select the SAE standard (CCS)
  4. Partner with Tesla

Proprietary Solution

Option 1 has several drawbacks. It has a large capital requirement. You would need to build out a vast network in all regions where you sell vehicles. It's a multi-year effort. Porsche has stated that they have engineered an 800 Volt fast charging system. If Porsche were to deploy yet another network, this would further splinter the industry. Porsche has a great record of innovation, they would be better off working with one of the groups in options 2, 3, or 4 to improve charging for all. Considering the cost and effort, let's consider this a DOA option, listed only for completeness.

Standards-Based Fast Charging (CHAdeMO/CCS)

Option 2 or 3 utilize existing public networks. This is what most non-Tesla automakers are selecting. Here it is important that you consider the experience that your owners will be subjected to. Simply selecting a CHAdeMO or CCS port for the car and then saying "fueling infrastructure is someone else's problem" is a poor option. Automakers must become involved with the charging standard organizations. This should include investments into the infrastructure network, in the charging provider companies (AeroVironment, ChargePoint, ABB,...), and perhaps even a seat on their board promoting reliability and a positive driver experience.

Automakers cannot simply put a fast-charge port on their cars and call it done. The charging networks that support these vehicles and their customers are an important part of the ownership experience.

As we covered here, CHAdeMO seems to be losing steam. If you are considering this option, CCS looks like the better long-term choice. However, there is one more option to consider first.

The Tesla Network

Option 4 is to partner with Tesla. Let's continue with our analogy that you are in charge of a car company's new EV program. Should you partner with Tesla or select CCS? Let's assume you've decided to partner with Tesla. For the rest of this article, we'll explore this option.

Justification: Why Automakers Should Take Up Tesla's Offer

Compared to CHAdeMO or CCS, Tesla's network is more complete, robust, and reliable. The network is better planned and positioned, there are multiple stations per site, and no membership card or app is needed to initiate a session. As an EV driver, it is a better experience.

Selecting Tesla would give your fledgling EV program an incredible jumpstart and your EV program an incredible innovation partner. This will keep your vehicle's charging technologies on the leading edge. Tesla has announced plans to vastly increase the charging rate of their network in 2017 with Supercharger V3. They also plan to install solar canopies and onsite energy storage. If you are hoping to attract environmentally conscious customers, these (soon to be solar powered) charging stations are a compelling story.

How Would A Partnership Work?

Since no automaker has yet taken Tesla up on this offer, we don't know exactly how it would work but Tesla has laid out some of the framework. Musk has stated that the contribution to the Supercharger network would need to be proportional to use of the network. So, if your company's cars make up 5% of the network's use, your company would need to pay Tesla for 5% of the network's operating cost.

Considering the recent changes Tesla has made for idling fees and limited free charging, I'm sure that Tesla would require similar fees for other automaker's vehicles joining the network. These changes were not profit motivated, they were intended to improve network availability. Any car that is blocking a spot is a problem, regardless of the brand, so these rules would likely apply to partner company vehicles too.

As a partner, fees above and beyond the Tesla minimums would be at your discretion. Tesla has said that they are not trying to make a profit from the charging network. However, other automakers would be free to try other models. The fees collected, if any, could be used to offset the payments for your company's portion of the network operating cost.

Additionally, if your company established charging stations and added them to the Tesla network, the Tesla owner attendance could additionally offset the use of your vehicles on the Tesla network. Having this as an option is nice. If the EV project at your company is small, the network use will also be small and the payments to support the network would be negligible. If, however, the fledgling EV program at your company flourishes, then establishing your own Tesla-compatible charging stations in high-use areas can offset the charging events by your cars at Tesla branded superchargers.


If your car company is using Tesla Supercharger stations, would your vehicles be seen as competing with Tesla vehicles? Yes. If you are building a long-range electric vehicle, then your car is competing with Tesla, whether or not you are using their network.

Partnering with Tesla on charging standards puts you on equal grounds in this arena. This means you will need to make compelling vehicles.


There has been overcrowding at some Supercharger locations in California and Norway. Tesla is actively installing and expanding their network. More locations will only help if the network growth outpaces new vehicle sales. Tesla has a large number of Model 3 pre-orders. They plan to deliver a lot of cars in 2017 and 2018. Overcrowding is a risk. The changes Tesla has recently made to eliminate free supercharging and to add an idle fee are steps to ensure that the network is not abused and only used when it is needed. Additionally, doubling the network size in 2017 to alleviate congested areas. We'll see if these measures help.

The Choice Is Yours

Which "little monster" (as ChargePoint called them) will you choose? If you are a car buyer, this choice will impact where you can charge. If you are an automaker, this choice (among many others) can determine if your sales continue to grow, or if they flatline.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

We Need 300 Mile EVs!

There are some people that say long-range EVs are a waste of resources and a selfish indulgence. Are they? Do you need a 300-mile EV? This is what we'll look at today. 

Over the years, we've owned 5 EVs in our household. Three short-range and two long-range. They each filled a need, we'll discuss the pros and cons and maybe help you figure out what's right for you.

Ed Says You Don't Need 300 Miles of Range

In an opinion piece in the NY Times, Ed Niedermeyer makes the case that short-range EVs are adequate for most drives and that almost no one should buy a long-range EV. The argument goes something like this: 

The average American drives about 40 miles per day and 95% of those trips is 30 miles or less. For the rare time that you do need to take a road trip, you can rent or borrow a gas car. The article goes on to say that you can further supplement your personal transportation with public transportation, micro-mobility, biking, walking, and the like. 

Culturally and from a policy perspective, the long-range car is a sledgehammer, the article asserts. Cars have too often been the default assumption and this has choked out the alternatives. Electric vehicles are headed down the same road as their internal combustion antecedents and we can do better this time.

Electric vehicles are an important part of our transportation future. Currently, EVs are battery cell constrained. If short-range EVs are made, rather than long-range EVs, this has two benefits; one, you can make more EVs; two, the vehicles will be more affordable.

The above is a very short paraphrasing of the article. I've tried to steelman (not strawman) his arguments. If you've read the article and think I missed an important point, please let me know.

What Ed's Missing

Ed's article is factually accurate, logical, and completely wrong. Here are a few of the things Ed seems to not understand: 

1) Averages Don't Tell The Whole Story 

"The average American drives about 40 miles per day." 

Have you ever heard the phrase, "If your feet are in the oven and your head is in the freezer, then your average temperature is just right"? Looking at an average is far from seeing the complete picture that the dataset paints.

Maybe you drive the kids to school, then daycare, the gym, work, then grocery shopping and other errands, then back to school and daycare for pick-up time... each of these trips in itself is short, but let's say you don't have charging infrastructure at these interim locations. That means, from a battery/charging perspective, this is a single trip. In fact, it's worse than one long trip of equal distance; if the weather is hot or cold, you'll be cooling/heating the cabin from scratch for each trip rather than getting it to a comfortable temperature and then just maintaining it as you would on a single drive.

Another way an 'average' might hide data: Are there people that drive less than 5 miles (or even zero miles) most days? There certainly are some. How do they impact this average? For a simplified example, let's say you work from home and most weeks you only drive on Sunday when you shop for your elderly mother and take her groceries for the week. This is a 200-mile round-trip drive. Calculating an average, this could (incorrectly) be interpreted to say you drive 200 miles a week, 200 miles divided by 7 days in a week, that's less than 30 miles per day.

A trip average is not the complete picture of how someone uses personal transportation. It flattens the data and removes important nuances that really matter for practical considerations. It's far more important to look at your real-world needs, not just averages. 

2) Emergencies

The second case Ed seems to be overlooking is emergencies. If your only personal transportation is a short-range EV, this might not work well in an emergency. Let's go back to the parent running midday errands. If they only have a short-range EV and late in the afternoon most of the range has been consumed, they are about to head home and charge, then an emergency happens. Now they have to pick up a child or head to the hospital... depending on when this call arrives, they may not have the needed range.

Fast charging can fill in gaps, however, short-range EVs frequently do not support DC fast charging. This means for short-range EVs, quick charging is often not an option.

There are other emergency situations too. If you need to evacuate from an area due to an all too common natural disaster, a lack of range (and fast charging) can be a significant problem.

I'm also going to put Detours in this emergencies bucket. Occasionally, you encounter a downed tree, a crash on the highway, or something else and you have to take an unplanned detour. These can add miles to a route and can disrupt the charging plan you had at the start of a trip. Having extra range in this situation is reassuring.

3) HVAC Use and Winter Driving 

If you want to heat or cool the cabin in a car, this requires energy. In an EV, that energy comes from the battery pack; the same battery pack that's used to move the car around from point A to B.

EVs use things like heat pumps to efficiently heat or cool, but it doesn't come for free. Compared to an internal combustion engine, there's no "waste" heat that can be recovered to warm the cabin. In an EV, this heat has to be explicitly generated.

Cold temps can be a triple whammy too. When it's cold, batteries don't perform as well and your range is reduced. A study by Consumer Reports showed that EVs only have about three-fourths of their range at 16F compared to 65F.

In the winter, you may be using winter tires. These have better traction in the cold wet snowy conditions, but they increase the energy used per mile compared to the low rolling resistance tires usually equipped on EVs. 

For our third and final winner whammy we have running the heater. When you have a small battery packet, HVAC usage can quickly become a significant percentage of the energy consumed. Here's a summer example of HVAC use with our Spark EV: 

In the above drive, on a relatively mild summer day, more than a third of the energy used was for climate settings (3.6 kWh out of 10 kWh).

4) Geography

The rule of thumb is that every 1000 feet of elevation gain uses about 10 miles of range. This is more of an issue in some parts of the world than others. Driving around here, we have the Cascades and the coastal range, so elevation changes are common. To know if this will impact you, you'll need to know how hilly your area is. A drive that says it's X miles on Google maps might use more energy than you expect once elevation changes are taken into consideration.

5) Infrastructure 

EV infrastructure is not evenly distributed. If you live in southern California, you can likely find a place to plug in when necessary. That might not be as true in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The ability to charge up mid-day, where your car is parked, makes a big difference. If you can plug in and leave every venue where your car is parked with a full battery, this makes a short-range EV much more viable.

6) Battery Degradation, Long-Range vs Short Range

Most Lithium-ion battery chemistries prefer shallow cycles; that is using less than a full charge. If you can use just the middle third of the battery (avoiding full charges and deep discharges), this will contribute to a much longer battery lifespan.

When you have a large battery, it's easy to keep the battery charge level within that middle third zone for daily driving. However, with a short-range EV, you'll likely be charging to full, daily (or nightly) and deep discharges are far more likely with a small battery pack than with a large pack. So small battery packs lead a harder life. 

As long-term readers will know, I tracked the battery degradation of our Nissan LEAF and our Tesla Model X. I (very unfairly) compared the battery degradation here. The thermal management of the LEAF was an obvious contributor to this.

For another comparison (both with liquid cooling), let's look at two cars in our driveway today, a Tesla Model X and a Chevy Spark EV. Both are model-year 2016 vehicles, so they've seen a few years and miles, so we can see how the degradation has progressed. 

When new, the Chevy Spark EV had a pack with 19 kWh of capacity. Today that car has 17.2 kWh available. That's a 9% degradation in 6 years.

The Model X on the other hand started with 85.4 kWh and today it has 77.5 kWh.  That too is 9% degradation over the same time period. The Model X has also been driven about 20 thousand more miles during this time and it has been Supercharged dozens of times, whereas our Spark EV has no DC fast charging capability.

Smaller battery packs are more often deep cycled, as a result they often degrade faster. If the Spark EV had a similar number of miles as the X, it would be further degraded.

Even in this best-case example of only 9% degradation, the impact is more significant to the shorter-range vehicle. The Spark EV started out with an 82-mile range. Losing 9% brings the range down to 74.4 miles. If your daily usage, including HVAC use and hill climbs, needed 80 miles of range, this degradation could mean the difference between a successful trip or not. Whereas, if you had a long-range EV, with more range than you typically use, you generally have range to spare. 

There's A Place For Short-Range EVs

I've painted a pretty bleak picture of short-range EVs. If you have a 10-year-old EV, with 12% degradation and you are driving it in a cold, hilly, region with little-to-no charging infrastructure, you might not have a great EV ownership experience. However, I don't want to say that short-range EVs don't have an important role to play, I just want to clarify that they are not the vehicle for all situations. If you have the right expectations for them (more on this later) they can be great.

The Case For Big Batteries

Nearly all the shortcomings of a small pack are not an issue with a large pack. Having more range than you need, means you have capacity when you need it. This extra capacity means the car is still usable in the winter when the range is reduced and the heater has to work overtime. This means you can take an unexpected detour or drive when an expected event pops up. It also means the vehicle will still have a viable range even when the pack is a dozen years old. 

If you live in an apartment building, you might not be able to plug in overnight, this could mean that you have to go to a charging station to charge up. A large battery could mean you only have to go to this charging station once a week instead of nightly. This means less congestion at the (in some regions) all too rare charging infrastructure. That big battery also means that you'll be able to charge at a higher rate (more cells allow the charging load to be more distributed).

Next on our list of big battery benefits is futureproofing. A long-range EV also gives you futureproofing. What if you get a great job offer tomorrow, it's your dream job with more pay, but the commute is 50% longer. So even if a short-range EV is a good fit today, you don't know what twists life will throw at you tomorrow. 

Big batteries are not without downsides; they cost more and they weigh more. So what's the right size pack for you? It's the one that fits your needs and expectations (I promised to get back to expectations, so let's do that now). 

The Rock Ballet

Let's say you have tickets to a rock concert. The night of the event is here, you have your black band t-shirt on and you're excited to rock out. Then you arrive at the venue; the band you are looking forward to seeing is not there. Instead of a rock concert, they put on a ballet. This would be a huge disappointment and you'd want your money back.

The same can be said in the other direction, if you paid for and expected a ballet, but they put on a rock concert, you are likely going to be disappointed. Knowing what you are buying and having it meet your expectations is as important as the event and product.

How does this lesson apply to EVs? You have to get what you're expecting, in this case, range. If you want an affordable EV that you use for commuting and errands, a short-range EV can work great. However, if you try to take this on a road trip, you might be highly disappointed. 

A short-range EV might be a great addition to your home fleet (as it is in ours), if you have long-range EVs (as we do), PHEV, or a gas car as a backup; but this only works if you have realistic expectations about its capabilities. You have to know the drives you expect it to take: are there hills, how will it handle the winters in your area, is charging available, do you have a backup plan for emergencies... 

What Does Ed Know?

One of Ed's points in his article is that EVs are not like gas cars. He's right about that, but his response to this difference is to relegate EVs to a niche market of "grocery-getters". This is not the right answer. To really understand EVs, you need to drive one and see how it fits your transportation needs, how they age, how they respond to your driving, regional weather, and more. You need to drive one day in and day out for a significant period of time. These are not the sort of lessons you can learn from a test drive. 

So since Ed is recommending that everyone drive a short-range EV as part of their transportation smorgasbord, he must drive one, right? Luckily, someone asked him:   

Twitter exchange with Ed Niedermeyer

As you can see from the Tweet reply above, Ed does not have an EV in his garage (short-range or otherwise). Despite owning a Toyota Tacoma (MPG 19 city / 24 highway) and a BMW (MGP 19 city / 26 highway), he thinks you should not buy a long-range EV. Ed is burning gas on weekends and on road trips, but if you are driving a solar-powered long-range EV, you're the problem. Yeah, right. 

Ed's Bias 

The list above of things Ed seems to be unaware of is rather long. Certainly, in his years of covering the cars beat, he's learned about the impacts of weather, age, and inclines on EV range, so why ignore them in his NY Times piece? 

Ed's the author of “Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors.” This book is critical of Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Tesla community. When Tesla's primary products are long-range EVs, I don't think it's a coincidence that Ed is writing an article that condemns long-range EVs and the people who drive them (while wrapping himself in the noble cause of reducing EV prices).

Ed's NY Times publication is among the worst type of specious anti-EV FUD. It claims to support EVs, yet what it's doing is attempting to relegate them to a niche. A niche that guarantees that gas-powered vehicles will remain as the primary choice for most personal transportation. Limiting EVs to just short-range vehicles (as Ed suggests) will make sure that EVs cannot meet a wide swath of transportation needs and it ensures that many people will not be comfortable driving them due to range anxiety.

Wrap-Up :: It's Up To You

Above, I made the case for big batteries, but I'm not saying that you should buy a long-range EV. Rather, the point is that there are use cases for which long-range EVs fit very well and others where short-range EVs fit very well. 

No one knows your transportation needs better than you do (not me, not Ed). You are the best person to decide what would work best for you. Do you live in an area where public transportation is available? Do you have a commute where an e-bike would work? Do you have easy access to a long-range car that could fill in if you need it?... All of these are big factors in making a choice that best meets your needs and no one, not an (uninformed) opinion piece in the NY Times or some blog on the internet should tell you what you should do to meet your personal transportation needs.

Disclosure: I am long Tesla