Call Malcolm Gladwell, because EVs just hit a tipping point
Francis Scialabba

Remember when you and a handful of other fashion trailblazers were the only people wearing Crocs…until the floodgates opened and they were on everyone’s feet?

That moment could be here for electric vehicles in the US. EVs accounted for 5.6% of the total auto market in Q2, according to a new report from Cox Automotive. While that share is still pretty small, it carries major implications.

Why? Because 5% is the tipping point after which EVs skyrocket from niche → mainstream, according to a Bloomberg analysis of 19 countries. It happened in Norway in 2013, in China in 2018, and in South Korea in 2021. Five percent is apparently the threshold where people go from thinking “My neighbor has an EV…that’s odd” to “Three people on my street have EVs…I think I want one, too.”

This adoption pattern isn’t exclusive to electric vehicles—you see it play out across the tech industry. It’s called “the S curve”:

  • When a new technology (such as TV or the internet) is first introduced, it’s only used by a small number of early adopters. Growth is relatively slow.
  • But that growth accelerates in dramatic fashion once the normies catch wind (for EVs, the 5% mark).
  • In the final stages of the S curve, growth once again stagnates as the holdouts hold out.

So will it happen in the US?

Let’s just play out the hypothetical: If the US follows the same EV adoption pattern as other countries that hit the 5% threshold, then a full 25% of new car sales would be electric by the end of 2025, per Bloomberg. That would smash forecasts by a year or two.

But to get there, the industry has to overcome a number of hurdles.

  1. First, the cost. The average EV costs $66,000 in the US, which is $20k more than the average price for all new cars.
  2. The lack of a dense fast-charging network is also hindering EV adoption in the US. In a recent survey, 61% of Americans who said they weren’t gung-ho about buying an EV cited the uncertainty around finding a charger.

Looking ahead…projects are underway to build more chargers across the fruited plain. The Biden administration will hand out $7.5 billion for electric charging infrastructure to states, while GM and Pilot announced a partnership yesterday that would increase the number of fast chargers available in the US by 20%.—NF

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