Americans not fully accepting electric vehicles yet, Department of Energy official says

Americans not fully accepting electric vehicles yet, Department of Energy official says

September 4th, 2019 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

A Tennessee Valley Authority Chevrolet Bolt charges outside the federal utility's Missionary Ridge office complex on Broad Street on Feb. 14, 2019. / Staff Photo by Robin Rudd

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

“Electric vehicles haven't been money-makers so far. It's a technology that makes so much sense, but it's a delicate balancing act….”
Daniel Simmons of DOE

Staff photo by Mike Pare / An electric vehicle charging station built by Volkswagen subsidiary Electrify America is located at the Walmart in Ooltewah.

Staff photo by Mike Pare / An electric...

American motorists are "headed in the direction" of accepting electric vehicles, but they're not there yet, a top Department of Energy official said in Chattanooga on Wednesday.

"We're definitely not there yet in terms of cost," said Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Simmons said the cost of battery packs for EVs has fallen by 80% in the past decade and that's an impressive figure.

"But they need to fall more," he said in an interview during a break at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Smoky Mountain Mobility Conference.

What drivers want is "no compromise vehicles," Simmons said. EV buyers currently make certain compromises and if they're OK with that, the vehicles "are great with our lifestyles," he said.

Simmons said it's key for future EVs to be "no compromise," offering greater range between charging as well as faster recharging times and lower costs.

He said that vehicles with internal combustion engines are "incredibly flexible" and there are no limits.

"With electric vehicles, there are more limits," Simmons said. "People aren't fully ready to accept that."

He said he's aware that Volkswagen plans to invest about $800 million at its Chattanooga production plant to assemble an all-electric SUV by 2022.

VW subsidiary Porsche on Wednesday unveiled its first all-electric car — the Taycan Turbo and Taycan Turbo S, which will go for about $150,000 and $185,000, respectively.

The Porsche Taycan, the first purely electric driven car of the German car maker, is present during a world premier event at the airport Neuhardenberg, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) east of Berlin, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP)

The Porsche Taycan, the first purely electric driven...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Carla Bailo, chief executive and president of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said all the major carmakers are drastically moving toward electric vehicles.

But, she said in an interview, the industry isn't seeing the increase in sales to balance out the investments from the companies.

She said the latest survey shows that 30% of car buyers consider an EV for their next vehicle.

Range, cost and recharging infrastructure are all elements which need improvement "so the consumer really thinks about that as their next vehicle of purchase," Bailo said.

The federal government has offered tax credits of up to $7,500 per vehicle, and she said other incentives ought to be put into place to train people how EVs fit in daily life and spur discussion in public forums.

Simmons said that while automakers such as VW are making big bets on electric vehicles, the question is how to make money with today's technology and "getting on the glide path to make money in the future."

"Electric vehicles haven't been money-makers so far," he said. "It's a technology that makes so much sense, but it's a delicate balancing act. "

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.


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