The Fault In All Electric Cars
A lesson in branding
If you think I am going to buy a car because it is good for the environment, you kid yourself. The same can be said for almost everybody else. And it is not because we hate nature. Nah, there is a fundamental flaw here. And that is what I hope you gain from my discourse here. Electric cars are already developed to the stage where they should be taking over the world. But we still think of it as a future trend. Nothing is wrong with the technology, rather there is a fundamental flaw in marketing and PR. This is a branding lesson for entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the environment. And neither does anyone who is not buying an electric car. We live in this environment because it is habitable for us. We even haven’t come to a consensus on how the environment came to be. But we do understand that there must be a balance.
Let us analyze the assumption that an electric car does save the environment. The premise is that cars that run on fossil fuel produce gases that are harmful to the environment. The environment is quite big. So it is good for us to quantify the amount of damage that cars which run on fuel contribute to the environment.
Sadly, there are lots of processes that also release these unwanted gases into the atmosphere. How much of that is from cars? Well, here is what I found:
- The US transportation sector (which includes cars, planes, trucks, trains, ships, freight) produces 30% of all US global warming emissions
- Vehicles are responsible for 75% of air pollution in the US
Those are big numbers. And let us accept that their impact is real (even if you have doubts). So, let us assume all cars today become electric. What impact is it going to make on the environment? Is there a stat for that? Yes. Here you go:
- If everyone in the US made the switch to electric cars, the country’s carbon dioxide emissions will drop by 8.4%
- According to research by the European Energy Agency, with electricity generation, the carbon emissions of an electric car is 17–30% lower than that of a petrol or diesel car
Okay, let’s assume all that is true and great. Is the human being going to feel the difference? (And you do know that everyone will not make the switch). At this point, I think not. And I know what you are thinking. The gases are going to destroy the environment if they keep going unchecked. But would it?
Which country had the greatest carbon dioxide reduction in the world in 2019? Take a guess? The USA. So, how? The short answer is alternative energy sources. Especially things like natural gas chosen over coal. Here is a full explanation if you are interested. Here is my point:
The problem is not the production of what has the potential of destroying the environment. Instead, the problem is the lack of production of what has the potential to save it
My point is that one person buying an electric car is pointless in saving the environment. Many people buying an electric car is still pointless in trying to “save the environment”. That is because the emission you are trying to factor out of the equation is very likely being added by someone else through another process. An electric car does not generate electricity, remember. And there is more.
Even if the emissions you are not producing is not being produced by another person, you are still not saving the environment. Just because you are not part of the problem doesn’t mean you are part of the solution. If you are really passionate, your house must be run on pure renewables. You must never charge your car without being sure that the energy is from a renewable source. Can you see the hypocrisy creeping in?
A car that would be truly environment-friendly would be a car that produces oxygen instead of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide. In other words, it would be undoing all the harmful gases that the other cars are releasing. Now, that is a car I would buy for the sake of the environment.
The only reasonable point left is air pollution. But no one really talks about that because it is just like noise pollution. Humans get used to it, even though it is not good. It is amazing the popular media makes people care more about the environment than about their health. Does anyone really want to trade the luxury of an affordable car to make the air a little cleaner? Something about that is off. It is not good for a PR and marketing campaign to be built on this idea of “saving the environment”.
The first electric car was not a Telsa. It was developed by William Morrison in 1890 with a top speed of 14mph. Why has the development been so slow? The short answer: Money.
In recent times, they have been just as efficient as cars that run on fossil fuels. Yet, the demand for them is not through the roof.
Recently, a friend showed me a lovely Mustang. It has this sectional shape of a baby shark. I was all in love with it until he mentioned that it was electric. All of a sudden, I started having doubts about the performance.
You see, when we want to buy a car, we buy what we can depend on. We must be able to show our friends and they’ll give us their approval. It must be something that is designed to serve us and our purposes alone. Everybody is pretty much selfish in that area.
Buying an electric car (for the sake of the environment) is almost synonymous with buying a pen that writes better when another person is holding it. We never buy things for the environment, we buy things for ourselves. We buy Air Jordan because we want to feel like (or bond with) Michael Jordan. It is not because insects fly better when we walk around with Jordan’s.
If we don’t care about nothing except ourselves for what we buy, how then do we expect to buy an electric car because it is good for the environment?
I know there are some fans of electric cars. And I doubt if they are sincere. Most people love Tesla because of Elon Musk. If he leaves the company today, most of them will discover they don’t care about the environment. But some people are passionate about cars being electric. But I think the wave is at its max. This means everybody that will love it already does. And if it is not mainstream now, there are only 2 options in the future.
The Future Options
There are only two ways for electric cars to become mainstream. The first way is through government policy. This is where governments around the world make laws not stop the use of any other car asides from electric cars. And they are already mildly doing this.
There are laws in certain parts of the world that encourage people to buy electric cars. If those laws get strong and powerful, they will bring the world into an auto electric age. This is why all the PR for electric cars are working night and day. They are not trying to persuade regular people to buy electric cars, because they know it won’t work. Instead, they are trying to make a case to lawmakers to enforce the use of electric cars so that there is no choice.
The second way is the trend of driverless cars. And this is an important trend to watch for the future. If people stop owning cars personally, then the decision to buy cars is not made by individuals anymore. In that case, a smart city setup becomes the standard. And it doesn’t make sense for a smart city transportation unit to be running on fossil fuel. It has to be electric.
Therefore, if the future involves cities having their transport systems and individuals don’t own cars, then all vehicles will be city infrastructure. And only electric-powered systems make sense for that setup.
Even though there are projections into that future today. There is no guarantee that the future will be like that. Many things can go wrong. Many things can turn out better than expected that would make the world skip that phase.
These are the 2 possible futures of electric cars. The good projections.
The Other Fault
By the way, what I considered most annoying about electric cars is the fact that I have to wait for it to charge. That is a turnoff. You see, I want a car, not a phone. I don’t want my car to be charging. As you know, one of the big problems we have with phones is the fact that we have to charge it.
An electric car like Tesla is cool in almost every way. Until that annoying wait. It has happened to us many times with phones that we can’t imagine it happening to us with cars. Can you imagine going to work one morning and then you realize you forgot to charge the car after last night’s trip? No way.
The wait is the problem. And lots of companies are doing something about the wait. But it is not enough, in my opinion. They are looking at the problem from one end when they should be flipping it over. What do I mean?
The problem is not the battery. The problem is the wait. All the auto companies have been working on the battery life. And that isn’t getting rid of the problem. Here is my solution (maybe someone will listen):
Making the charging experience different. The feel about it has to be different. Make it into the classy “changing a flat tire” feeling. Why do people have to wait for the car to charge? That redundant time makes owners feel helpless (especially when it wasn’t planned). Why can’t batteries be changed? This is what I mean.
Drive into an electric car “filling station”. Detach your battery with the push of a button. Give it to the people at the station. They give you a fully charged replacement. You slot it into your car. You get back in the car and go your way! I bet Jeremy Clarkson would love that.
If electric cars come together to create a standard battery and work out an interchangeable feature, it would do the industry more good than the competition they have themselves locked in. And there are many ways to spin this around.
People say electric cars are safer. But we all know that cars don’t cause accidents, drivers do. We also know that one feature is a compromise for another feature. For example, we want a lightweight for speed but we also want a strong body to withstand impact.
But that is not where the danger of an electric car is. Have you seen Fast and Furious 8? The part where Vin Diesel’s character goes rogue. There was a scene where a hacker was hacking all the cars and driving all of them from a remote location. That possibility becomes more plausible with an electric car. Although, all recent cars are subject to that to a significant extent.
If your car isn’t electric, you may still have some tricks to get back control in such an unfortunate situation. But if everything is electric, you may just have to jump out as some did in the movie. And that is not all there is to the danger.
There is the golden word: energy independence. There is an energy balance in the world among countries. And that energy balance is a bargaining chip that holds the world in its current state of affairs. The moment fuel is no longer required for transportation (on a large scale), that balance of power will tilt. There will be new energy leaders and the old ones are not going to sit down and watch that happen.
This is more than just about oil-producing countries versus energy-consuming countries. It is way deeper than that. This is going down to the corporation and individual level. Even governments would want to protect their interests. Imagine the thinking that their country has achieved energy independence, only to wake up one morning and discover that their energy storage is no longer relevant. That is the scary part.
I bet many of those government officials are not even thinking about that. Or maybe they are?
If you own an electric car, what would you tell someone (with cash right now) to persuade the person to buy an electric car? (Try not to pitch a Tesla).
I just did an experiment that I need to share with you. I asked my friend if he would buy an electric car. He said yes. I asked why. He said because it is good for the environment. I asked if he really cared about the environment. He gave me that awkward smile. So I asked what electric car he would buy. He said, Tesla. Then I asked him to name another electric car that is not Tesla. He couldn’t. (In fairness, I think he was trying to name one).
People love Tesla because of Elon Musk, not because of the environment. And that is why Tesla will continue to be the leading electric car manufacturer.
Calling your car an electric car after you release it just automatically puts you behind Tesla. And Tesla is not selling you an electric car, they are selling you a bond with Elon Musk. I think Tesla knows that it is not about the “electric” car. (The niche is for the brand, not the brand for the niche). This is the fault: the PR and the marketing battle is lost the moment you call the car an electric car.
We don’t want to buy a car that is good for the environment, we want a car that is good for us. Period!
I rest my case