For most of the For the past decade, Americans have largely ignored electric vehicles. Some brands sold decent numbers, like the Chevy Bolt or Nissan Leaf, but they were largely aimed at frugal commuters or EV diehards. Others, like the Ford Focus Electric, were only meant to comply with laws requiring a small number of EV sales. Still others, like the early Tesla models, were desirable but out of reach for most people.
In recent years, however, car manufacturers have lowered their resistance and consumers have also let go of indifference. The adoption of new technology often follows an S-curve, with people adopting it slowly at first, then rushing once a tipping point has been reached. EVs seem to be at that inflection point today: car buyers bought nearly twice as many plug-in vehicles last year as the year before.
The sudden surge has left observers wondering if the pace can be sustained, especially in the US. Their concern is not misplaced: Other than Tesla’s factories, the US has no significant infrastructure for manufacturing EVs or batteries, at least not yet. And in terms of publicly available chargers, we have fewer EVs per road use than any country except Norway, where the public’s sudden embrace of EVs has sparked a wave of new registrations, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency. .
Innovation could help US battery makers become more independent from Chinese supply chains, an agenda that many manufacturers hold dear.
The US may seem behind, but is that also hopeless? Can the country pull a rabbit out of the hat? It has of course happened before. The US didn’t invent the car – that credit goes to Germany’s Karl Benz – but it did produce the Model T, which helped the country lead the way in adopting the car.
The Interstate Highway System was also not the first controlled-access highway network, but today it is much more extensive than the Autobahn and until a decade ago was the most extensive in the world. The trend extends beyond transportation — Americans didn’t initially embrace cell phones, but subscription rates continue to grow domestically, while they’ve plateaued or fallen in more industrious countries.
It’s not guaranteed, but there are plenty of reasons why the US has a good chance of overtaking the race. And if so, it offers plenty of opportunities for investors, especially on the infrastructure side.