Op-Ed: Do EVs Need A New Name For Future Mass Adoption?
Friday, Jay Cole shared with us they (Inside EVs) had crossed the 10,000 article threshold, surely on the way to 1,000,000 article greatness. Something caught my eye that gave me pause as to just how significantly seemingly small things can shape the entire big picture.
In the email deliberation over what this very website would be named, Dr. Lyle and Jay considered how the acronym, “EV” would be received by the general public. Was it sexy enough? I really like the name. But it does bring up a rather profound question. Can the public at large grab hold of this acronym as designation of the future of transportation? Or rather, does it inspire a future of dreamers to embrace a whole new way to travel? Here is a story about how the name of a very virtuous species of bicycle fell into a very tiny niche product, carried along by a very uninspiring name.
A good friend of mine bought a bicycling newsletter and turned it into a living. He became the go-to guy worldwide for news, reviews and info about bicycles and trikes you rode in a reclined or recumbent position. These bikes were coined, recumbents.
Once he got a significant following, he would be asked for commentary by large nationwide publications like Bicycling Magazine. Waning interest lead to the category of bicycle kind of drying up. Large bike manufacturers like Schwinn, Cannondale and Trek were toying with prototypes of mass-production recumbents but never put them out on the market. Major bike manufacturer support would have given this breed of bike street cred.
One has to listen to one’s gut. His gut told him recumbent bikes needed a new name. The early-adopters and nerds called them “bents”, but that wouldn’t fly with the general population. He printed a piece asking his readers to come up with a new name for bicycles you sat down to pedal. Nothing stuck. I had this idea we call recumbents, “Cruisers” – because they cruise along swifty, and mostly, IT SOUNDED COOL. I mean, who doesn’t like to cruise, right?!
But I procrastinated and second-guessed my idea until three years later, I open bike magazines only to see articles on this new category of bicycle called…you guessed it, “the CRUISER”. Cruisers were a new tag on an old dog. Cruisers are just one-speed or 3-speed, heavy, fat-tire retro bikes people use to putt-putt along the beach or in town. They often are retro frames and designs harkening back to the 1940s and 1950s Schwinns of yore – the bikes your mom and dad rode when they were young. Cruisers began selling like hotcakes and now every manufacturer has a line of cruisers down at your local bike shop!
Meanwhile, near San Francisco, some bike rats were playing around on offroad trails by placing fat tires on old bike frames. They started calling these hybrid junker bikes they abused on trails and rocks, “mountain bikes”. The rest is history. The name inspired people to think outside the biking box. A bike could go – INTO THE MOUNTAINS! Sounds nuts, but it was a revelation for people! The name inspired sales, making mountain bikes the largest-selling category of bicycles in history! My friend stuck with the “recumbent” label. Today they remain a very small niche in cycling, and his publication is gone. Is it too late for recumbents? Maybe so. They’ve been around so long, and like EVs – have developed a stigma. I have seen parallels develop between the electric car world and recumbent bicycles.
Tesla gave us the first “sexy” EV in the Roadster. Soon, it was capturing the imaginations of millions as to what an EV could be. “Electric Vehicle” sounds like an appliance. We can’t be like recumbent bicycle niche nerds. “EV” doesn’t resonate with the mass public. Too bad we can’t come up with a name that more captures their imaginations, like “mountain bike” did!
I haven’t put my massive, impressive brain power (cough! cough!) to the task as of yet, but a new name for EVs could inspire folks to get out of the golf cart = EV mentality. “Speedsters”, perhaps? Does the nametag, “EV” make the masses think of a speedy Roadster, or a tiny city golf cart?
Do you have any ideas you’d like to share?