Would you mind terribly if I tapped the regenerative brakes a minute on the industry's downhill run to an all-electric future?
We're speeding up in exactly the wrong direction, and without a slight course correction, we're going to wind up on one of those runaway truck ramps with our wheels buried up to the axles in loose gravel.
The problem is range, but it's not the problem you think: It's not that there's too little range in most electric vehicles — it's that there's probably too much.
The good news is, we can fix what's wrong pretty easily, if we're creative.
Even before the pandemic, the average daily drive in the U.S. had been declining precipitously, and by 2017, had fallen to less than 26 miles, according to the National Household Travel Survey. Yet automakers — driven like wild-eyed sled dogs by range-anxious prospective EV consumers — as well as my media colleagues (and me) have prioritized increasing range as the master key to broader EV adoption. Make the batteries bigger, we argue, to cover 300, 400 or even 500 miles of driving, and people will switch.
We might be right, but I think we're wrong. The key to eliminating range anxiety isn't bigger, expensive batteries in every EV; it's having additional energy readily available on those occasions when it's needed.
Most consumers by now realize they could use an electric vehicle 95 percent of the time, but that other 5 percent keeps them from fully considering a switch. That 5 percent use case is a very real impediment, especially given the front-loaded costs of EVs compared with their internal combustion engine competitors.
As Dr. Gill Pratt, Toyota Motor Corp.'s chief scientist, put it so eloquently several weeks ago, hauling around all those extra lithium ion batteries when they're not used most of the time is like filling your trunk and cabin with really expensive bricks.
So how does the industry fix this, before we all go careening off into an expensive place none of us wants to go?