Op-Ed: Do EVs Need A New Name For Future Mass Adoption?


Tesla First Made EVs "Sexy" With The Roadster

Tesla First Made EVs “Sexy” With The Roadster

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.

Dutchman Sebastiaan Bowier went 83.12mph for a world record in this bad boy (photo via Bas de Meyer, team photographer)

Dutchman Sebastiaan Bowier went 83.12mph for a world record in this bad boy (photo via Bas de Meyer, team photographer)

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.

Is This What People First Think Of When They Hear "EV"?

Is This What People First Think Of When They Hear “EV”?  Small and Expensive?

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?

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77 Comments on "Op-Ed: Do EVs Need A New Name For Future Mass Adoption?"

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How about putting some fat tires on an EV for off-roading and calling it a “mountain EV”.

“mountain cars”?

Thing is – I know you’re being facetious, but it just might work! If only EVs had the battery power to thrash around sand dunes and climb rocks. Not ‘zactly the killer app for EVs.

James, Electric Fueled Vehicles in the #eMotorSports Division of the Surging Global #ElectricFueledVehicle Industry ‘DO’ have enough torque to, as you say,”thrash around sand dunes and climb rocks.”


Link Goes To Japanese Pikes Peak Hill Climb Demo-



Links Go To Mitsubishi Outlander 4X4 #PHEV –

Asia Cross Country Rally – 2013-


Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV racing in Australasian Safari 2014-


Link Goes To BIGFOOT #20 – First Electric Monster Truck Car Crush-


100% Torque!


Thomas J. Thias





We call gasmobiles “cars”. That’s not a sexy name. Sexy names are given to specific models of cars, not applied as a generic name to the whole.

The reason EVs have a perception problem isn’t the name, it’s the reality of very limited energy carried aboard, causing limited range, coupled with extended recharge times (as compared to filling up a gasmobile.)

Changing the label of something with a negative image is a futile effort so long as the reason for that negative image is ongoing. Remember when “retarded” was a euphemism for “moron” or “idiot”? These days, calling someone “retarded” is considered insulting, even though it was originally a kind euphemism. It’s only natural that the euphemism acquired the same stigma as the original terms, because the underlying disability is the same.

And I’d argue that “mountain bikes” didn’t become popular because of the name, but rather because they were a different style, and made to stand up to rougher treatment; a better match to “extreme sports” participants’ activities.

The label “EV”: It’s not sexy, but it works.

“It’s not sexy, but it works.”

…you owe me a nickel for using that, (=

If I pay you the nickel, will you finally tell us the story behind your reversed smiley? 😀

Unfortunately…no one can be told about the reverse smiley

I already took the red pill, Jay… which transformed my avatar into a two-headed llama.

Euro smiley goes left to right. 🙂
Middle eastern smiley goes right to left. (-:

eloC-lA ababilyaJ morf seirots lla tcepxe I neht tuB .noitanialpxe taht yub ll’I ,eruS
(= .thgir ot tfel morf daer dna nettirw eb ot

Dang dude, how long did it take to write that?!

Or should I say…

!?taht etirw ot ekat ti did gnol woh ,edud gnaD

Actually, reversed smileys go back to late 1980s Usenet, and signify left-handed people. I’ve been using them for that since then.


“We call gasmobiles “cars”. That’s not a sexy name.” –

We call bicycles “bikes”. Not my point. There are muscle cars, sports cars, supercars and pony cars. I’m sure you can think of many more.

Let’s use “pony car” as an example. Two doors were not new, but at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City – Ford spent a lot of money to place a shiny, red Ford Mustang up on a big pedestal at the entrance of the event. It caused a sensation. The public’s imagination was captured. People envisioned Mustangs as a wild, fun and exciting new kind of car. In truth, it was a twist on a familiar theme. Other manufacturers were sent rushing to the drawing boards. Soon, a whole new category started by Ford and it’s Mustang was born: the “pony car”. Camaros, Challengers, Barracudas and Shelby’s followed. To this day, more ink and cover photos of major car magazines are plastered with these machines than any other car category.

So – what’s in a name? Quite a lot – me thinks.

Do you know the Stanza story? In the early 90s Nissan couldn’t figure out why the Stanza sold so poorly, after expensive marketing research they concluded it was the name. In ’93 the body was resigned and the “Altima” was born, the first year even said “Stanza” in small letters on the back and Altima in large. One of the best selling cars ever, yes, the name is very important.

names are important, but you have to have product attributes to back it up. what names/labels do for you is create a kind of shorthand that people can link to a set of product attributes. the problems with EVs were correctly pointed out by @pushmi-pullyu. if the attributes pointed out by @pushmi-pullyu are undesirable to consumers (and i agree that they are) then a mere name isn’t going to make them like those undesirable attributes any more.

Your Stanza story is interesting, but it’s a model name, not a designation for a whole type of vehicle.

I used to drive a Prelude. I would jokingly ask myself, ” I bought a Prelude to…what?!”…Some called it a “Quaalude” and some even called it, my “HeyDude”!…

Think, “sport coupe” – what does that conjure up in your mind? Now think, “muscle car”… this is what I am driving at.

“EV” or “Electric” is blah – it’s vanilla…The trick is to think of attributes ( and I disagree with those here who want to emphasize negative attributes of EVs ). The positive attributes of EVs are many. You list all of them you can think of – then equate words to them that suggest that attribute.

you have to convince people that the superior qualities of EVs offset the possibility that they will have to wait around for hours waiting for the thing to recharge. it is going to take a lot more than creative naming to accomplish that.

Sorry to poke holes in your theory, but I’ll point out that EVs are not just cars. They, exactly like mountain bikes, are a category of car that’s been around in tiny niches for decades and even at the very start of autodom. Like mountain bikes, EVs are popping up in numbers that show up on John Q. Public’s radar due to newer innovations ( lithium batteries ). The label: “mountain bike” made this type of bicycle seem new. When that came together, it caught the public’s imagination – this lead to major manufacturers making them which lead to mass-market success. Myself and all my friends bought “junker bike” parts in the 1970s and built our own bikes. We rode them hard in the woods and our paper routes – these were in essence, “mountain bikes” – we just didn’t know what we had. What’s in a name? Think if mountain bikes were coined, RBs or Rugged Bicycles. Do you still believe they would have skyrocked to mass popularity as much and as fast. I do not. EVs do have massive perception problems to overcome. City cars and economy appliances are the stigma. Tesla punches that image in the face… Read more »

Lithium batteries, computerization plus greatly improved power electronics made exciting electric cars possible. With mountain bikes, the innovation was more gears with more reliable drivetrains plus lighter, stronger metals and alloys to build beefy frames at lighter weights.

The “perfect storm” of innovations to existing platforms made the explosion of sales success. EVs have experienced this same ramp-up of technical innovation. Now is the time for a new, inspiring label to launch their success.

All of us should call them Intergalactic SpaceBoats of Light and Wonder… 🙂

I feel that EV is not the problem but Plugin is as it does imply having to plug your car often. My Volt has the Plugless System for 18 months now so i never need to plug it in and i love that and so does my wife. Here in Quebec, we call EVs Rechargeable Cars on most french EV sites, not Plugins (branchables). I would hope that a site like insideEVs would drop the Plugin term and call them Electric Rechargeable Vehicules (ERVs). I think that eventually, down the road, all ERVs will fill up wirelessly and we’ll get rid of all those different plug types and vandal prone equipement. In a funny way, when the vast majority of Electric car owners would never go back to a gasoline engine, i have the same feeling about the plug, i’ll never go back to it. My next car will also have wireless charging, be it factory or aftermarket. Imagine never having to plug your cell phone. Once you’ve tried it, you adopt it. I know this is a heated subject but let’s face it, Plugging a car is just a phase of the evolution so, why not use the right… Read more »

I do like the term rechargeable better, as it further specifies exactly what type of vehicle it is vs just driven in some capacity by electric motors, and is more elegant than ‘plugin’

For example, some may argue that a fuel cell vehicle is electric, as it is driven by electric motors. But it doesn’t RUN on electricity, it runs on hydrogen. So it’s a hydrogen car.

But with the term rechargeable, there’s no confusion. Its a vehicle that can be recharged back to a full state by applying electricity (via plug or wireless options).

And too bad the term ‘RV’ is already used for something else 😉

Tesla got world attention with YouTube videos of Roadsters blowing away people with their instant acceleration. Acronyms ( PHEV, EREV, BEV, EV or REV ) don’t inspire excitement. A good name can.

Not sure about you – but while you and I dig “Rechargeable Car” – do you reeeally feel large numbers of excitement-starved citizens are amped-up by the word, “Rechargeable”?

LOL. Not so much. When I picture rechargeable in my mind, I conjure up images of my electric toothbrush, razor and cellphone.

Remember, bicycles are HPVs. Mountain bikes are MTVs ( Mixed-Terrain Vehicles ) or MTHPV….see my point?

Geeks might Looooove acronyms. People buy a lot of transportation devices for fun factor. Not as a point A to B appliance. We can call our laptops PRPCs ( Portable Rechargeable Personal Computers ) but it doesn’t really inspire me to go down to the computer store and check one out.

Laptop’s a rather poor example.

Laptop is already the designation of type computer.
You could call it a portable computer, too.
And those terms do exist.
Rechargeable term isn’t really used because there is no laptop out there that cannot be recharged. Perhaps if there were ones that run on disposable one-time use batteries…
So its a given that it is rechargeable.

And all computers run on electricity, so not really a good parallel.

Cars, like power tools, can come with all kinds of different energy sources.
But something tells me ‘corded’ car isn’t going to cut it, using the power tool naming trends 😉

But that’s part of the marketing and image – it’s just like your toothbrush, cell phone, shaver, etc.
You plug things in to recharge every day, so why not a car?
Don’t focus on the ‘smallness’ of the other items, but the fact that it’s simple, efficient, and effective.

We could call all BEVs teslas.

It might be a little confusing, but definitely sexy.

SEXY? Nicolai Tesla Was “A” Sexual….Ironically

He did *LOVE* his pigeons, though. 😉

Like calling all tissues “Kleenex”, or adhesive first aid strips “Band-Aids”.

Hey, What’s the problem with the Th!nk city above? It’s exactly like mine and it works!

Seriously. It was designed by Ford, it is fully crash-tested, it has airbags, etc. It is a safe little car like the Smart car. If people don’t like it then don’t buy it. But if all EVs need to be multi-ton big cars like the Model S then EVs might never get popular because they’ll be too expensive.

The Model S is a great car . . . but to get mass adopt we’ll need cars like the Fiat 500e, the Chevy Bolt, the Chevy Volt, etc. in addition to the larger cars because big cars weigh more thus require larger batteries thus become expensive. We need a full spectrum of plug-in cars from NEVs to big work truck PHEVs.

Ask the market what was wrong with the THINK City. They went bankrupt. They didn’t sell. We are discussing mass market here.

Perception likely was a large problem with any tiny city car like the THINK. Speaking of thinking – the SMART car sells relatively well compared to those tiny city EVs. Perhaps because the name was SMART…and not asking one to THINK? LOL.

Food for thought…..

As much as you and I ( EV geeks ) love the THINK ( I like ’em ). We are early adopters and EV geeks. That car just looks like a machine you wouldn’t want to be seen in unless you didn’t care much about what others thought about you based upon what you drive. Unfortunately, 80% of people do develop an opinion of others based upon what they drive. This is why minivans died, and SUVs soar in the marketplace.

I do like the sound of ‘EV’. More like a pettish nickname to me at the very least, and simple to get.

It took me ages to figure this out, but how about…

“Electric” or Electrics.
To me, it harks back to the 1910s – 40s when there were add for every appliance like a cooker, a heater to a kettle. Putting ‘electric’ or ”The Electric” in front of the name already brings an air of luxury and top quality, and convenience.

Albeit, “Electric/s” would already be confusing if someone tried to describe a car’s onboard 12v electrics, unless ”electronics” is used which is really the correct way of things now since every car has a screen now.

I think “Electric” is pretty cool. From what I’ve seen, so do a lot of non-EV drivers that see me climbing into or out of one of our EVs, or hear about what I drive.

“So, it’s electric?”


“Wow. That is cool”.

Often they use other adjectives, i.e. “great”, or “nuts”, or something on those two extremes, but rarely something in between. Physical reactions are usually smiles, or eye-popping surprise/excitement, or head shaking in disbelief. Sometimes confusion. But from what I’ve observed it’s usually not benign.

So… I think we already have a word we can use that, if not sexy, is at least provocative.

I don’t think the name is the problem. The image is the problem. For the longest time (in recent history) that any manufacturer produced an EV, it was a slow golf-cart-style vehicle. This became the standard image people had of them. When I first got my Leaf 4 years ago, one question I was often asked was “how fast will it go, can it get on the highway?” and one guy was even convinced that 45 mph was the top speed because he’d heard that somewhere.

Couple that with the fact that people still don’t understand about home charging, fast charging, or PHEV designs, it is just hard to sell to the ignorant.

Tesla has done more to help sell Leafs and Volts than anything else because they have changed the perception of EVs. Vehicles like the Think and i-Miev, if anything, have damaged that perception.

The widespread public perception may not have changed much. But at least many people are trying out used EVs now that the first cycle are coming off Lease and others selling to upgrade or refresh with new models.

Ah man, why are you picking on the Think City? It’s a great little car & fully crash-tested. I guess most people make the uninformed decision that it is unsafe because it is ‘plastic’. But steel outside of a car is not what protects passengers, the Chassis does. You can easily dent the outside steel of a car with a simple kick . . . something you can’t do with the ABS of the Think since it bounces back.

Well, I don’t think it did the EV world any favors when it came to the segments perception to the wider population.

Top speed of under 70 mph, pretty small/plastic-y compared to any other auto, 46 hp…and by the time it made it to the US public, it had a $41,500+ price tag (final inventory clear-out pricing was about half that amount as I recall).

Never did see an EPA number, but range wasn’t too bad, probably ~85 mile equivalent.

I love the think city concept. I have seen a few of them around. Honestly, though, my first take was that a plastic body car should be $%^&* CHEAPER! (than a steel car).




You heard it here first.

You joke but IMO this is exactly what is needed. A new class of ev: LREV (long range ev – anything with 150+ mile range) HPEV (high power ev – anything that can charger at 100 kW+) I can see it now in the general auto press, “The 2018 leaf might have the same name and freakish looks as it’s the first generation EV but the similarities end there, this is the first low cost LREV – it has a whopping 200 miles range, more than double the first leaf model whilst still costing less than half the current generation Tesla. This vehicle is a game changer, when joined by other low cost LREV’s the Bolt and the model 3 it’s likely that we will really see sales taking off.” IMO we won’t need to choose the name it will choose it’s self as the 2nd gen buyers try and distance them selves from the first gen model. We are already seeing people referring to the current gen bev’s as “100 mile” or “sub 100 mile” ev’s. Soon as we have more than one long range lower cost offering on the market the name will appear. It’s not the name… Read more »


This Sunday Dilbert comic posted by @eMotorWerks yesterday seems an appropriate accompaniment to this story. Enjoy. 🙂

The problem is that they are cars…electric cars…as in “electric typewriter.” Obsolete before they ever came out.

We are stuck with a 19th century transportation device in the 21st century.

Cars are far from obsolete. I see your point, esp. when we sit in gridlock for hours a day during the workweek, and then if we want to attend a major sporting event on the weekend. You could make a point that public transportation is the future.

Truly, it seems cars will be with us at least to the 22nd century. This be the case, cars with sustainable energy sources that don’t ruin the planet’s atmosphere, allow humans to breathe fresh air and don’t start wars would seem to be the way forward.

I kinda like the Chinese term “new energy”.

I’m likin’ that too.

Hmmmm… “New Energy Cars”… I think many would be tempted to use another acronym, NEVs, though ( sigh ).

How about “Torque Monsters” or “Torqueys” for short. Unfortunately I can see that degrading into “Dorky” cars pretty quickly.

or (NEV) new energy vehicle

That one is taken by Neighborhood Electric Vehicles…which brings us back to golf cart.

New name for EVs:

1.Sport Electrics


3.Energy Cars

4.Freedom Cars ( Free from parts, service and gas stations )

5.Power Cars.

The success of “mobile phones”, “pony cars” or “laptop computers” stems from the images such labels conjure up in one’s mind. Thus – a formula to find a new label is based upon connecting the experience of owning one, or connecting an image ( pony, or mustang connotating freedom and independence ) to the attributes such a thing has.

It’s sizzle selling steaks. It’s not easy. This is why advertising people make the big bucks.


According to Hypercars.com:

What are Hypercars?
The term Hypercar was coined by the Rocky Mountain Institute to refer to ultra-modern, extremely-efficient cars which offer outstandingly clean, safe and economical high performance. Specifically RMI believes hypercars can “achieve 3 to 5-fold improvement in fuel economy, equal or better performance, safety, amenity and affordability, compared to today’s vehicles.”

I’m all for hypercars. The VW XL1, Edison2, a few other concept cars. The driving public has no interest in hypercars. They are buying SUVs and trucks in record numbers…so many they dropped the national fleet average in June by a fraction of a percent. The people who want hypercars are mostly young and have no interest in conventional cars at all…electric or no.

These are the people who will be using transportation when all us boomers are dead. They will be riding around in those Uber/Google pods and talking about the dark ages when people worked a year just to buy a car and have it sit for 20 hours a day.

Here you go. A new catch phrase.

We are nearing the “Electric Edge” when plug on vehicles will be considered equally to regular ICE cars. But where is that edge in terms of the year number coming up? I suggest it is when a Leaf sells for $3000 more than a Versa, a Volt for 2500 more than a Cruze Diesel. Without incentives. Perhaps 2021-2024 era.

Stealth cars?

Stealth energy cars?

“Electric” is perfect, really.

Can you imagine a commercial where a woman is sitting alone in the car (dark interior) describing her “experience” (presses into her seat, etc) When she finished, of camera voice asks for one word to sum up the experience, and she says…


And she turns her head to stare into the horizon, reliving the experience in her mind.

EVs do need an new image. Hopefully White Zombie and Tesla, among others, have helped do that since this 2009 skit from the Blue Collar comedy group. They make fun of the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee after putting in an EV motor (1:48 mark)


man, is this video ever stupid! i guess it reflects badly upon me that i watched a full minute of it before bailing.

Yep.. that’s blue collar humor.

EMF (electromotive force)

Battery electric = Battle Car

You’re welcome.

Battle Car Galactica?

Not many people know what an EV is.frequently I’ve to explain it is an electric car.

How about gasless cars. 🙂

If you call an EV a gasless, or a gasfree, or something similar, what would you call a PHEV?

I sorta like it, except I’m not sure about naming something based upon what it isn’t.

It does look like this has already been used in the press, but unfortunately for a fuel cell vehicle:

“Should Tesla Be Worried About Toyota’s New Gasless Car?”



How about an ad campaign showing solar panels and EVs and dubbing them FFVs – Free Fuel Vehicles.

– Except it’s not free fuel unless you’re using someone else’s solar panels and wind turbines.

Any acronym with an “F” in it is just begging for abuse…… No F-words.

Since cars are an abbreviated version why not not add a few letters and call it a carve. You just add the last two letters, multiples becomes carves. So you can really carve up the road. It’s simple and derivative, it’s a play on words and it includes the the letter “e” and “v”.

Tron’s, like ElecTrons. The movie was not to bad either. I am going to get Troned.

Wanna go for a ride in my Tron?

Then you could have a MegaTron and SuperTron.

I’m late to the party, but any new name should be:

1) Google friendly. It shouldn’t return embarrassing results (like “Santorum”).
2) Preferably 1 word, no more than 5-8 letters, no more than 2 syllables, so it is easy to say, type, and put in headlines. Avoid names that can be shorted or made into acronyms.
3) Neither emasculating, nor overtly masculine.
4) Isn’t just some other word with an “e” or “i” in front of it.
5) Doesn’t have a sh!tty translation into any foreign language (like “etron”).
6) Can be easily combined with other descriptive words, like “luxury”, “SUV”, etc so sub-categories can be established.

So yea, I got nothin’ too….

combine everyone’s love for high power performance with their passion for cars aka Hot Rods or Street Rods and you get….

Lightning Rods.. beacons of attraction!! 🙂