The U.S. to Electric Vehicles: “Um, Not so Fast?”

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electric vehicle adoption in the U.S

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Keep in mind: Numbers don’t lie. Yeah right!

The story:

New car sales data from 2021 indicate that electric vehicles made up only 4% of all vehicles sold in the U.S. In contrast, China’s share of EV’s sold in 2021 was 9%, while in Europe, 14% of all new car sales were electric!

176,000 EV’s rolled off car lots and showrooms in Europe in Dec 2021 alone. 2.3 million during the year. That was a record!

In China, more than 3.5 million EVs hit the road in 2021, a whopping 158% increase compared to 2020.


Why it matters:

Transportation is the biggest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. It’s also the second-largest contributor to global carbon emissions.

Therefore, the U.S. could make more significant progress towards reducing GHG emissions by focusing on the transport industry and adopting less polluting modes of transportation.


What’s the drag?

electric vehicle adoption in the US

If the U.S. is so gung-ho about clean energy and hosts one of the most iconic electric car brands (Tesla), so why aren’t more Americans buying and driving more EV’s?

Well, it’s not that simple. There remain technical, economic, and social barriers to owning an EV in the U.S.

Take price alone. Did you know that an Electric Ford Focus costs nearly double that of a gas-guzzling one?

U.S. consumers need more EV charging stations to make electric car ownership feasible on the technical front. They are already used to gas on the go.

There are nearly 113600 charging stations in the U.S. However, most are concentrated in California, where there’s a greater uptake of electric cars.

Consumers simply want to be juiced up during a drip. Getting stuck in the middle of nowhere in an expensive EV isn’t the dream most have in mind.

Political factors play a role too. Trump’s administration stepped on the electric vehicle adoption in the U.S. brakes, further dragging the country behind its peers. In contrast, Biden’s administration is trying to change that, aiming to have half of all cars sold to be electric. It remains a tall order.

According to some estimates, EVs will only make up 20 percent of the car market in the U.S by 2030 rather than 50 percent.


What can be done (being done)?

charging an electric vehicle

1. Offer tax credits to consumers

Tax credits and incentives work to promote EV uptake. According to research, Colorado and South Carolina increased unit sales of plug-in hybrids by 1.7 percent and 3.7 percent on average when they offered tax credits to consumers. Interestingly, demand stayed strong even after the tax incentives expired, for example, in Oregon.


2. Address EV infrastructure

The U.S. needs more charging stations if EV uptake is to go higher. 113600 charging points just won’t cut it.

For instance, charging stations should be set up at fast food outlets and grocery stores, letting U.S. consumers charge up while doing their shopping or getting some food.

It makes sense to put them up where the people are or frequent most.


3. Affordability

The price of electric cars simply has to come down for more consumers to consider them. Period.

But it’s just not that simple. Even if, by some chance, the prices do come down, we must face the environmental cost of producing them. Electric vehicle batteries and other components use rare earth metals. Someone has to mine those materials.

Now, mining isn’t the most environmentally-friendly activity. As much as we want and need green technologies, we must also realize that going green comes at a cost.

Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.


4. Strengthen CO2 emission standards

The EPA has already revised emissions rules for passenger cars to promote GHG emissions. However, it’s not nearly enough to spur EV uptake compared to China and Europe.


5. Taste & Drive

You know those little treats you get at stores to entice you to buy the whole thing. Why don’t we do that to boost electric vehicle adoption in the U.S?

Tesla, for example, plans to rent out some of its EVs to car rental companies to give consumers a taste. People can then experience them first without buying.

Sidebar: Here’s  an interesting bit. Tesla sold almost a million cars in 2021. Of those, only a third were sold in the U.S.

It also seems that while Tesla forms the bulk of EV sales in the U.S., the competition is more diverse in other countries. Maybe what America needs is simply variety.


Tying it all up

Electric vehicle adoption in the U.S. is still low compared to peers. But, the reasons aren’t as clear-cut. More needs to be done to address the bottlenecks that make EVs less appealing such as cost, charging points, etc.

Ten years down the line since the first mass-produced EV, the “green” vehicle market is still hovering around 5 percent. Why and how do we start changing that?

  • Simon Elstad

    As assistant editor at Greener Ideal, Simon champions clean energy, mobility, tech and the environment. He’s passionate about uncovering innovative solutions that power a sustainable future. When he's not dissecting envirotech data, you can find him exploring nature, actively supporting wildlife & environmental conservation efforts.

    Contact: [email protected]

3 thoughts on “The U.S. to Electric Vehicles: “Um, Not so Fast?””

  1. From where I sit, this piece seems to have it backward. There is rampant demand for EVs in the USA. It’s simply not being filled due to lack of product supply. That’s the major bottleneck.

    With limited supply, some automakers are required to supply a large portion of their electric cars to Europe in order to comply with strict fleet-emissions regulations. That leaves fewer for the USA. The Ford Mustang Mach-E is a prime example. They are produced in Mexico, then the lion’s share are shipped to Europe, despite high demand for that vehicle in the USA.

    Tesla have a similar dynamic. Their entire production output comes from two factories, in California and China. The Chinese-made cars are not brought into America, which means all of North America has to be supplied from the California factory. It was recently rated the most productive auto factory in the USA, and yet it still can’t meet demand. If you order a new Model 3 now, you can be waiting months for your car to be produced and delivered.

    Under these circumstances, more charging stations or a lower sticker price wouldn’t get a single additional Mach-E or Model 3 sold into the US market. There simply aren’t enough of them to go around.


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