Accelerating an EV Future

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Accelerating an EV Future

Britta Gross, director of Advanced Vehicle Commercialization Policy at GM, spoke to a room of more than 500 sustainability professionals a the Ceres Conference about moving electric vehicles into the mainstream.
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Thursday, May 5, 2016 - 3:55pm

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The transition to a clean-energy economy is underway.

Britta Gross, director of Advanced Vehicle Commercialization Policy at General Motors, spoke to a room of more than 500 sustainability professionals at the Ceres Conference in Boston about moving electric vehicles into the mainstream.

In her role, Britta explores the enablers that drive EV demand and promotes electrification technology.

So what’s it going to take to grow this niche market?

Incentives & policy

Rebates and other incentives are proven ways to increase electric vehicle sales. At both a federal and state level, EV enablers include vehicle rebates and tax credits for infrastructure buildouts.

She believes one of the most important actions to take right now is to wrap incentive programs like the federal tax credit incentive or EV incentives available in 15 states with promotion and marketing efforts. It’s about getting the word out.

Company clout

Companies play a big role in advancing awareness and adoption. They can contribute simply by adding charging stations in their parking lots. GM, for example, has more than 500 workplace charging stations for employees and visitors to plug in and charge up. Even if a person doesn’t own an electric vehicle, the psychology of seeing that he or she wouldn’t be stranded helps to view an EV as a practical choice.

Evaluating the purpose of an organization’s fleet vehicles can often lead to considering EVs, as well. Many municipalities purchase SUVs or trucks, but if their staff is driving around performing energy audits, for example, an EV might be a much more cost-effective option.

When in doubt—whether it’s range anxiety or ease of charging—Britta recommends talking with someone who already drives electric. These are the people who can speak to the availability of electrical outlets and that most Americans only drive about 40 miles per day.

Driving awareness

Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently predicted that by 2040, plug-in vehicles would make up about 35 percent of cars on the road.

While much needs to happen in terms of market acceptance, Britta appreciates the optimism. Our energy, environmental and economic security would improve as a result of increasing the number of electrified vehicles on the road.

“Look at your business, look at your household, and think about why an EV makes sense,” said Britta. “There’s no good reason why there isn’t a plug-in vehicle in every driveway in this country right now.”

The key is to simplify the marketing message and focus on customer benefit. People don’t need to understand how the grid operates to drive electric. They just need to push the button and go. 

Britta challenged the audience with some homework.

“In the next 30 days, I’d like people to take a test drive of any electric vehicle and start the battery up and take it for a drive,” she said. “And then, within a year, really think about how an EV fits into your life. Try to spread the word.”

The EV experience

Britta has driven an EV since 2011 and now can’t imagine going back to a pure gasoline vehicle.

The quiet ride, the initial torque, eliminating the need to stop at a gas station because you’re charging up while you sleep—these are all perks of the electrification experience.

Benefits range from lower cost of ownership to high vehicle quality and dependability.

“After 20 million Volt battery cells were produced, we have found two problems for every 1 million battery cells,” said Britta. “That’s pharmaceutical-level quality in a first-year automotive lithium ion battery technology. It has exceeded our expectations. There’s no concern about these battery technologies, and there’s always warranty on top of the battery systems, as well.”  

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra has said the auto industry will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50. Automakers today are offering a variety of customer-driven solutions that are fun to drive while also leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

Whether it’s mobility as a service through car or ridesharing, or going electric, getting from point to point more sustainably has never been easier. 

Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Britta Gross | Business & Trade | Ceres16 | Ceres Conference | Conference | EV | Electric Vehicle | Ethical Production & Consumption | Events, Conferences & Webinars | GM

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