Bullish auto maker goals surrounding electrification, paired with climate-related legislation and emissions regulations, are pushing forward the EV agenda.
Billions of R&D dollars are being poured into electric vehicles each year—but not all consumers are on board with the electric powertrain. Many, particularly in the U.S., remain hesitant about EVs, their range and the availability of the charging infrastructure needed to support them.
The onslaught of EVs that the industry anticipates will be on the road in the years to come may not be accompanied by consumer buy-in. It begs the question whether EVs are a consumer choice or instead are being forced by policies, industry experts discussed during a panel at SAE International's WCX Digital Summit this week.
"A lot of people are open to having an electric vehicle," Dan Nicholson, vice president of electrification, controls, software and electronics at General Motors, said. "Once you have that ownership experience, it's kind of EV for life."
Nicholson acknowledged, however, that auto makers, suppliers and startups have yet to completely address cost, range expectations and consumer concerns about charging infrastructure and availability.
Utility improvements to the electric grid and government policy and incentives will help spur adoption of electric propulsion, the panelists said.
Emad Dlala, technical fellow at electric vehicle startup Lucid Motors Inc., noted that greater efficiencies and higher energy density in EV batteries, alongside eliminating misconceptions around battery degradation and finding new ways of battery recycling, play a role.
Unique commercial challenges
Aside from getting consumers on board, there's much to do in the way of commercial vehicles. The commercial side faces its own unique challenges in electrification, said Timothy Frazier, executive director of advanced engineering at Cummins Inc.
For the majority of commercial customers that have uncertainty in their routes, having "a flexible system that provides them the range they need is critical," Frazier said. "What faces a lot of our customers in the commercial vehicle market is, certainly, what is the right answer?"
Frazier said he anticipates that future regulatory policy may drive one solution or another.
"At the moment in the commercial vehicle space, we don't see a singular answer that will fit all of our customer needs," he said. "We can't develop completely unique solutions for all of those different opportunities."