Electric vehicle sales in the U.S. are on track to surpass 1 million for the first time ever this year, and prospective buyers at this weekend’s Seattle International Auto Show could help drive that number.
For the third straight year, the show is promoting the fact that it will feature more EVs than ever before, and during a GeekWire walk-through on Thursday, it was once again tough to tell which cars might still run on gas.
EVs and plug-in hybrids are on display from every major automaker, with highlights including the Pacific Northwest debut of the BMW i5 — the first 100% electric i5; the Kia EV 9 — a highly anticipated three-row electric SUV; and the Honda Prologue — the brand’s first real all-electric vehicle.
Tom Voelk, an auto industry journalist, spokesperson for the Seattle show and host of the YouTube channel Driven, said EV adoption has been on a steady climb — accounting for 7.9% of all U.S. car sales, up from 6.1% a year ago — and remains on that trajectory.
But reports about the green revolution hitting “a speed bump,” as USA Today put it, may give pause to some who think we’ve left gas-powered vehicles in the rear view mirror. EVs are sitting on car lots longer and many are still too expensive for average consumers, even with tax breaks.
“The automakers have rushed into EV production. They’re spending billions of dollars,” Voelk said, adding that those manufacturers would probably like to see more exponential growth. “They’re a little bit nervous. I understand that when I spend billions of dollars, I want to get my return. But sales are still continuing up.”
Washington state is the place to witness that growth.
Sales of EVs have doubled in Washington over the past two years and EVs and plug-in hybrids sold at nearly twice the pace in the state than they did nationwide in the first five months of 2023, according to the Electric Power Research Institute. Additionally, Washington is often rated as one of the best states to own and drive an electric vehicle because gas prices are high and electricity is inexpensive — and it’s largely from renewable sources.
“Washington state is the perfect place to have an electric vehicle,” Voelk said. “And we’re second only to California in our adoption rate. We’re now at 18% of all car sales.”
Plenty has been written about the concerns around charging infrastructure and battery range, and how drivers seem to expect the auto industry’s transition from gas to electric power to be seamless and happen overnight.
“EVs don’t work for everybody,” Voelk said. “If you live in an apartment and you can’t charge where you sleep, then you have to find public charging, which is more expensive, and it’s not as convenient. But if you can charge where you sleep, they’re awesome.”
Voelk said education around EVs is the biggest adoption headwind. Drivers who typically only travel 30 to 40 miles a day are still stuck in the mindset that they need an expensive EV with exceptional range.
“You don’t know that until you’ve experienced it,” he said. “You’re spending a lot of money on a vehicle and you don’t want to make a mistake. So until people experience it for themselves, they’ll be thinking that they need a vehicle like a gasoline powered car that will go 350 miles on a single tank.”
Show visitors Bob and Wanda Bolerjack of Everett, Wash., have definitely bought into greener driving. Bob Bolerjack is on his second Chevy Bolt, this time opting for the Bolt EUV. Wanda Bolerjack drives a Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid.
“I love charging at home, love never having to go to the gas station, love no oil changes,” Bob Bolerjack said. “With hers, it gives her 30 miles to tool around town without ever having to use gas. But on long trips, we don’t have range anxiety, we take that one and you can still put gas in it.”
Bolerjack said his last internal combustion engine vehicle was a Honda CRV, and he loved it, but he loves not going to the gas station as much. And he said incentives that help cover the cost of a home charging unit or the rewiring of a garage for a 240 volt outlet are nice, too.
“And just being green,” Bolerjack said. “That certainly gives you warm fuzzies, that you’re not polluting, especially here in the Northwest where our electricity is generated mostly through clean sources.”
Mike Amundson of Tacoma, Wash., only drives about 14 miles a day and was happily searching the show for an EV or hybrid that would satisfy that need — and get him out of his 2010 BMW 5 series wagon.
“I’m tired of driving my car that gets 15 miles per gallon,” Amundson said, adding that the only roadblock to going electric is making sure he can outfit his older home with the the proper charging infrastructure.
He’s also not a big fan of all the interior touchscreens that are so prevalent in EVs.
“You can have some things like your nav or whatever, but I don’t want every single function to be on a big tablet,” he said. “You spill, you drop, you do something, you’re SOL, right?”
The Seattle International Auto Show runs Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Lumen Field Event Center at 800 Occidental Ave. S. Ticket info here.
Keep scrolling for more GeekWire images from the show:2023-11-17T16:34:15Z dg43tfdfdgfd