A few days ago, there was a MarketWatch article published that summarized the difficulties Tesla’s competitors are having going electric. The article goes through a litany of companies in electric vehicle manufacturing having difficulty catching up to Tesla. Some of the companies include Volkswagen, Jaguar, Dyson (yes that Dyson), GM, Porche, Toyota, Kia, China’s Nio, etc. The article even includes mention of Harley-Davidson briefly halting production of its LiveWire electric motorcycle due to charging issues via low-voltage home outlets.
While the point of the MW article was to discuss how much Tesla has a head start in the electrification of cars and will maintain its leadership role in EVs for some time, it occurred to me that the article itself could not have been written even five years ago. Half a decade ago, Tesla’s competition didn’t include other electric vehicles but only manufacturing building cars with engines that run on gas. That long list of today’s competing electric vehicle companies have led me to conclude the EV industry is about to enter a new phase as the industry matures.
The market is changing very fast and as more and more electric cars hit the market we as consumers are focusing less on the fact that these cars are not running petrol. Instead our attention has begun to focus on traditional car differentiation factors such as comfort features, body style, safety features, maintenance needs, and the type of personal service the dealer has to offer. Case in point, Ryan Wallace who is a YouTuber with a Tesla Model 3 has a series of videos that doesn’t always acknowledges the Tesla is an electric vehicle. In a recent video on Tesla Model 3 Autopilot he mentions while the talk of charging and range is important (he’s made those videos too), for Tesla the “cool factor” is actually its advanced driver-assistance system, AutoPilot. AutoPilot offers the driver automatic lane centering, adaptive cruise control, self-parking, the ability to change lanes, and recently the ability to summon your car from your garage or a parking spot.
As electric cars become more common, we as consumers are most likely still going to talk about the driving range of a vehicle but more and more those car discussions will be in the same context we discuss range and the MPG of our gas automobiles. These will be “fun facts” letting us tell others we bought an efficient vehicle, but those other factors of convenience and luxury that help us personally differentiate that one car we decide to buy among many other cars will still remain. We’re not going to buy a car just because it’s electric because over time that will be a given just as buying gas powered vehicle once was. In 2001, I never told anyone I bought an Acura TL because it ran on gas. A decade from now, buying electric will not be as significant of a differentiation as it is today.
In the next few years, we’re likely to see affordable electric pickup trucks from Tesla, Rivian, and Ford. When all three vehicles are electric…what’s the most important feature to a truck driver? Well for me it’s the creature comforts of the cabin (I like a nice roominess, the stereo, and heated seats of my F-150) as well as the towing and cargo capacity of a truck. How well will this truck pull my Jayco travel trailer? I’m just going to expect the truck can go 300+ miles on a “full tank” like any other truck…but which truck is better at towing my 8000 lb trailer over Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado? The answer to these questions will always remain why I buy one pickup truck over another.
In another video, Ryan Wallace asks the question, is the Tesla Model 3 the perfect car? His answer right up front is “no”, the Model 3 isn’t a perfect car. But in this particular video he notes that the issues he’s found in Tesla’s cars “isn’t a Tesla thing, it’s a car thing”. His point is that all cars are going to break, it’s going to happen, so why would you expect the Tesla to be any different?
My prediction is the electric vehicle skeptics will go the same route as those annoying friends of ours insisting we need to learn how to drive a manual over an automatic. Sure, hile learning to drive a stick shift may have been important one time, the world has moved on with 90% of us driving an automatic and now expect any car we drive to be an automatic. As more and more electric vehicles hit the road, there will be a day where the decision to driving an electric car over a gas car won’t be a second thought. Electric cars will no longer be electric cars…they’ll just be cars. That’s not a Tesla thing, that’s a car thing, and that’s the next step in the evolution of the electric vehicles industry.