LINDSAY CHAPPELL

EV marketers must retrain drivers -- and cell phones will help

Automotive News | August 19, 2010 - 4:08 pm EST

Electric cars face all sorts of challenges in their quest for market acceptance. One that hasn’t been addressed very publicly is consumer laziness.

Some people just procrastinate going to the gas station until the last minute.

It’s a habit developed over decades of comfort and luck. The yellow low-fuel light came on yesterday. Or maybe it was two days ago. And wow! I’ve been driving for two days with my fuel warning light on! Now that’s fuel efficiency. Or dumb luck, or something.

Such scenarios can’t happen with electric cars. When the dashboard battery indicator says battery power is low, gasoline vapors are not going to get the car home.

But this will be a marketing challenge, not a technology challenge.

Automakers such as Nissan and Mitsubishi will have to change drivers’ bad habits. The model for doing that won’t come from the auto industry; it will come from the cell phone experience. The primal fear of sitting in an airport with a dead cell phone is now part of out our modern collective subconscious. Who is foolish enough to go to bed at night without plugging in the phone charger?

If electric automakers can make that connection -- no pun intended -- they will have gone a long way to solving a technological shortcoming.

Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News in Nashville, Tenn.Lindsay Chappell is the Mid-South bureau chief for Automotive News in Nashville, Tenn.

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