That Chevy Feels Much Better Than Today’s Tesla

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Drive along American roads and all you see are petrol powered sports cars and pick-up trucks. Sedans are rare and electric even more so. That’s even as pump prices soared.

The thing is, vehicles with internal combustion engines are becoming more consumer-friendly and cleaner than ever before. Electricity doesn’t come close to it, and there’s not enough of it.

The benefits of being an EV owner are many, no doubt about it. If you’re lucky enough to own one, you could save $1,800 to $2,600 in operating and maintenance costs this year, assuming an average 15,000-mile drive. You can feel good just by charging, instead of watching gas bills pile up. And, of course, you can celebrate that you’ve joined the ranks of consumers who are more aware of climate change.

I recently traveled around the northeastern US states in a Chevrolet Traverse and Honda Pilot, so I’m not surprised that many would rather drive this car than compete for an EV. Technological features — often taken for granted by German car owners that are superbly engineered with a strong steering feel — make cruising along suburban highways incredibly easy. Thoughtful functions and innovations include a blind spot sensor in the rearview mirror to help change lanes, easy gear shifting, additional rows of seats that don’t make the car feel too bulky, and well-integrated interfaces like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. They’re now basic in new cars and, in my opinion, cooler and more useful than Tesla Inc’s dance and celebratory fads.

Step into the showroom today and you too can get right out in a petrol-engined car. Electricity will likely take longer. Additionally, annual fixed costs are being considered, or already exist, in US states and the value proposition for owning an EV is starting to fade. Of the 12 states that have proposed the cost of a new or upgraded EV, 10 will make drivers pay more than gas-powered vehicles by 2025. All told, the cost of ownership is high and outpaces the price of a car.

Ultimately, people want a comfortable and easy driving experience. Of all the EV owners out there, few get into the logistics of battery or emissions on a daily basis. The sad reality is, with inflation eating away at the wallet, consumers are not so focused on how green they are or how much they can reduce their carbon footprint. And they may already feel like they are doing their part to help save the planet by using less plastic or composting. Such is the human soul.

It is also important to remember that traditional cars are also getting better and more fuel efficient. Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 24% over the past two decades, while fuel savings have increased by more than 30%, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Meanwhile, all types of vehicles produce record low emissions. However, there’s no doubt that once you start driving an EV or even a hybrid, emissions will drop even further. But that’s a bonus this time.

In fact, the barriers to EVs are increasing and the biggest one is the ever-increasing list of consumer anxiety.

Lowering the obstacle wasn’t too challenging. This requires a policy focus and the introduction of clear measures to address concerns. Anxiety range? Get a fast charger up and running and upgrade the network. Many of the companies involved, including FreeWire Technologies Inc., recently signed a letter of intent with pit stop operator Phillips 66. Cost? Expand government incentives and credit for owners while shrinking internal combustion engine cars.

The US is working on getting companies to join forces to expand things like its EV charging network and has just started pioneering facilities for batteries and green car production. But it’s slow and doesn’t directly address consumer anxiety or cost of ownership. China, on the other hand, has incentivized EV buyers and manufacturers and built the necessary infrastructure.

Making EVs more accessible is not a challenge for the US; policy belief is.

More From Bloomberg Opinion:

• US Loses EV Battery Race: Anjani Trivedi

• Want a Family Sedan? You’re Not in the Driver’s Seat: Conor Sen

• US Needs Elon Musk — To Sell Electric Cars: Matthew Yglesias

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Anjani Trivedi is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies in Asia. Previously, he was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

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