Op-Ed: Internet Was Scary, But Electric Cars Shouldn’t Be

FEB 1 2015 BY STAFF 22

Change is always scary. New technologies that change the way we live will always make the masses nervous. It’s understandable, really. We get very used to the way things are, and as soon as we get comfortable, things change again. It happened with computers first, then with the internet and now it seems to be happening with electric vehicles.

There’s no doubt that people seem to view the electric car as a bit of a gimmick, much like the Internet at first. They disregard the electric vehicle as a regular form of transportation, simply because they cannot grasp the full picture. Sure, right now it may not be the absolute best way of getting around, but the day is coming when EVs will be the norm.

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BMW i3

In 1994, Brian Gumbel and Katie Couric seemed flabbergasted, on The Today Show, by the notion of the Internet. 21 years later and people wouldn’t know what to do without it.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG bu Nico DeMattia. Check it out here.

If the entirety of the Internet were to fail, worldwide, there would be wide spread pandemonium as the world suddenly crashed. Yet, people seem to forget that just a few presidents ago it was just a gimmick in most people’s minds. So, why the constant fear of electric propulsion? Well BMW put Gumbel and Couric in an i3 and had them reenact their confusion, this time for the i3, for BMWs upcoming Super Bowl commercial. This will also be the first BMW Super Bowl commercial in four years. Their confusion is acted out obviously, but the sentiment is real in most people.

When I had an i3 on test for a few days, it was met with “Ooohs” and “Aahhs” at the looks and the interior. It was when I told them that it was fully electric when they ceased and their noses wrinkled. I might as well have told them it ran on pureed baby seal. “Electric? But how far can you really go?” they would ask. Understandable question, no doubt. But when I told them that the range was around 80 miles, they looked at me as if horns were growing out of my forehead.

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BMW i3

Not one person I spoke to about the i3 has a daily commute of anywhere near 80 miles, yet they scoffed at the number. At the time, my daily commute was 100 miles and I made it work for the time I had it. Yet the i3 was met with disdain, simply because it couldn’t make a cross-country road trip as easily as their Ford Explorer. I was as flabbergasted at the negativity as they were at the range. I literally drove 100 miles in one day without burning a single drop of fuel, while doing perfectly average highway speeds in perfect comfort and near silence, all while listening to a crystal clear radio and people would still say “well what if you had to go even further?” It seems that with new technology, most people can only see the flaws, the warts.

Not everyone is afraid, though. There are many early adopters who see the i3 as a breath of fresh air amidst the sea of tepid, murkiness that is most of the auto industry. The i3 seems to have a small cult following who enjoy its EV quirkiness. And I can entirely understand their excitement. After just three days with the i3, I was smitten with its spunky, charms. There are a few Americans who share that same feeling, however, it seems it may take a while longer before the masses become as smitten as those select few.

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BMW i3

A shame, really, as the i3 is a technological masterpiece and a damn good car. Hopefully it doesn’t take 21 more years for people to get behind the idea of an i3, or any EV for that matter.

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22 Comments on "Op-Ed: Internet Was Scary, But Electric Cars Shouldn’t Be"

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Hopefully it does not take 21 years for EV Batteries to match the energy density of what people are currently used to driving / owning…

“most people can only see the flaws, the warts.”

I can agree with that. And people can be so short sighted. I remember when I got my first digital camera. It didn’t take as clear of photos as a film camera, and at the time it was difficult to get prints made. So people scoffed at it and said it was not a real camera. They couldn’t see its obvious advantages of seeing the photo immediately and not needing to send it off for processing.

When DVD first came out, the only thing my friends and family had to say about it was that “It can’t record.” And as such, they believed it would be an immediate failure.

Would the same apply to hydrogen fuel cell cars? Do most EV advocates only see the flaws, the warts? Are EV advocates short sighted, while Toyota has a long term view?

I once thought reality TV shows and Twitter were a fad that would soon fade away

Physics are not on hydrogen’s side as a transportation fuel.

Once we have fusion or some other limitless energy breakthrough, h2 could have a place.

Oh come on, it’s not that much about change, or even range anxiety. Sure for high end cars, it’s about range, acceleration, and # of cup holders. But to get true MASS (and I mean 20%-30% of ALL car sales), it’s about COSTS. Which is really, all about battery pricing. We already have BEV’s that are better than most of the “luxury ICE” market – but that’ still a small % of total sales.

The rest of BEV’s price breakdown is close to, if not cheaper, than an ICE – Once the BEV drive train is cheaper than the overall ICE (not lifetime savings, but rather up front $$$ on the hood costs), BEVs will dominate sales. It’s inevitable, it’s just a matter of time – expensive gas will accelerate the transition, but even without that, BEV’s will ultimate win. The physics pretty much assure that.

So make an I3 costs $15-$20K total, and you’ll sell 5M of them in a year. Get battery costs under $70-$80/Kwh, and it will be game over for the ICE.

BMW sell a car for $20k??? It would destroy the brand. Maybe they could sell it as a MINI.

Courics’ hair is kinda scary

Only the hair? Look, normal people don’t look almost exactly the same as they did 20 years ago.

And to correct that last statement, it didn’t take 21 years for the internet to catch on. The dot-com boom started 95ish.

I remember myself, in 1994, having a bit of that same attitude… I didn’t understand how a bunch of static HTML pages would even allow us to do input.

But by 1996, my job title was “Internet Software Architect” at a rather well known pioneer internet startup.

From what I’ve seen, the adoption curve on EVs promises to have the same impact as the internet.

I think what they mean is that now, 21 years later, we are connected pretty much 24/7 and the internet is seen as a necessity.

Back in the 90s, many people didn’t even have computers, and their internet access was limited to a few hours a month.
It was a novelty, but now its a necessity.

EVs are still in the novelty stage. But as batteries get better and gas prices start to climb again, they will slowly shift to that later stage when we all look back and think of how ridiculous is was to be shackled to the gas pump overlords, instead of just filling up every night while we sleep 🙂

Interestingly the internet was NOT the fastest new technology to be adopted. Radio was. 18 months from nothing to 75% of homes. Adoption of technology is a complex thing. Today I occasionally tell my kids what it was like to do things before the internet – like book travel or find the best appliance. But the reality is that when the internet came out there were two things that slowed adoption – first was the development of what we now call “content” (I remember first hearing the term “content” as a noun – I couldn’t grasp it) and second, well, we already could do everything the internet purported to do, so didn’t see the obvious benefit. Now, that’s not to say we fought it. My goodness, when I first got Netscrape 1.0 working on my PC at work I was stunned and told everyone. But it just didn’t seem compelling to get a service at home. Compare that to radio – there was NO substitute for radio. Nothing. Immediate news. Live entertainment. Of course everybody wanted one. Well, think about that then think about EVs. Do they go anywhere ICEs don’t go? No. In fact, they go to fewer places,… Read more »

Ah, the unwashed masses. I call ’em Wal*Marters. It will take many, many years before some of them will even accept an EV as a real car.

Careful with using that phrase. It expresses a clear disdain for lower financial classes. Elitism doesn’t sell electric cars to the masses, nor is it useful in any other way.

I own an EV and sometimes purchase goods at Walmart. What does that make me? 😉

Ironically, I saw my first ELR in a Walmart parking lot.

Just wait until the next crisis, when gas is over $5: they’ll be “accepting EV’s as real cars” real fast. The current low gas price can’t last forever.

I’ve always been of the opinion that EV’s won’t have a permanent, embedded future in American society until they filter down exactly to the single mom working at Walmart. When she’s driving at 3 cents per mile like I do now in my Leaf, EV’s will have well and truely won.

Should hydrogen fuel cell cars be scary? That would make for an interesting follow up Op-Ed.

Depends if you feel hugging a 10,000 psi hydrogen tank that’s going to rupture / explode from a fire– is scary or not. 😉

Internet wasn’t scary. Electric cars aren’t scary.

I know this article isn’t really about the i3 super bowl commercial but that clip is the first part of the commercial.

I think it’s interesting how both the i3 commercial and the Gen2 Volt commercial say nothing about it being an EV. There’s not one mention in the GM commercial and the i3 commercial it is only said once.

So I guess the new trend is not to jam the idea down peoples throat since they are so adverse to the idea.

Is this a good new tactic we are seeing???

Probably.

I’m sure it has two functions:
– Pique interest so people seek more information and are receotive
– Sell brand as technologically advanced.

While I like the ad and I understand the sentiment, the comparison between the internet and EVs is a little bit of a stretch. EVs won’t allow us to get to places we hadn’t gotten to before. It won’t completely change the way we travel, like the internet has changed the way we communicate and access information. I suppose that should make it that much easier to adopt!