Soaring gas prices. Supply Chain. Are people switching to electric cars? | Company






Gasoline prices were above $7 a gallon at a Shell station on Fourth and Bryant streets early last week.




These days, it feels like the city’s electric car owners are driving past gas stations with some smugness. Seven dollars a gallon? Not their problem.

But if you’re dependent on a gas-powered vehicle to get around, you’re definitely experiencing pump pain. This week, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose 11 cents to $4.97, a 62% increase from the same time last year, according to new data from Energy Information. Administration.

Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine triggered a global energy crisis, California already had some of the highest gas prices in the country due to a confluence of factors, including a the state to limit harmful pollutants coming out of tailpipes. Yet that fact can offer little comfort when supply chains are strained, inflation soars, interest rates rise, and anxiety about an economic downturn hangs in the air.

“I definitely watch every time I stop at the gas station,” said Maximilian Auffhammer, professor of international sustainability and environmental economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

So, as gas prices rise, more and more people are turning to electric vehicles to avoid the pinch at the pump? Or are the pandemic-related supply chain headaches bothering you?

“It doesn’t matter whether you want to buy an electric vehicle or a regular car. Trying to buy a car right now – used or new – it’s difficult and it’s very expensive,” Auffhammer said. “But we’re definitely seeing people who have thought about eventually wanting to switch (to a VE), saying, I want to make the switch now.”

It’s a reality that keeps Nathan Wyeth, founder of Link, a Bay Area-based startup that helps guide customers into buying an electric vehicle, very busy these days. “There’s not one type of car buyer or one type of driver who thinks about electrics,” Wyeth said. “And as gas prices go up, that’s added even more demand and, I think, urgency for some people.”

You need look no further than this year’s Super Bowl commercial lineup to see the wave of consumer interest and industry investment swirling around electrification.

“This is, for sure, the decade of the electric vehicle,” said Russell Hensley, who co-directs the Center for Future Mobility at consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Gone are the days when electric cars were reserved for Birkenstock-clad techies or environmentalists hunting for the first Teslas or buzzing around town in Priuses. “We’re beyond that now,” Hensley said. “The vehicle that you used to have, that you loved the purpose or the shape, you can now access the EV equivalent, where before you couldn’t.”

Electrified cars of all makes and models are coming online at a rapid pace, from mid-size sedans like the Audi E-tron or Kia EV-6 to heavy-duty trucks like Ford F150s and Rivian SUVs – from less in theory. While experts agree that demand has skyrocketed, delivery of these cars may still be out of reach.

“Depending on the pattern, it can be very difficult right now,” Wyeth said. “We wish we could snap our fingers and create cars from scratch, but unfortunately we can’t.”

The shortage of electric vehicles is just one example of how the pandemic has disrupted the global economy. “If I went out today and tried to buy an EV, the supply would be somewhat limited because we had COVID where we had massive fluctuations in labor availability – and we had a shortage of fleas, which is not something that goes away overnight,” Hensley said.

But experts agree fuel prices and supply chain issues represent a short-term setback in a long tailwind of growing momentum. “If you talk to manufacturers these days, it’s about how can we produce more models? How can we produce more of these vehicles? said Auffhammer.

Research shows that even though owning or leasing an EV is cheaper in the long run – even in a place like California, where the cost of electricity is also high – the initial cost of EVs is generally still higher than that of gasoline-powered cars, which may make these cars inaccessible to some.

“It’s like when you consider buying a laser printer or buying an inkjet printer,” Aufhammer said. “Inkjet printers are cheaper to buy, but you’re going to pay a lot more for the cartridges than for the laser printer.”

Despite this, Hensley believes the initial price discrepancy is another issue that will soon resolve. “You will probably get to a standard, an equivalence point in the next two to three years,” he said, making electric vehicles comparable to combustion engines, just without the need for gas stations, oil changes oil or filter replacements.

And, he added, once people go electric, they stay electric. “Once people get the driving experience, whether it’s the acceleration, whether it’s the refinement because you don’t have the engine noise, they love it,” he said. “People who have owned electric vehicles – they’re not going back to internal combustion.”

jwolfrom@sfexaminer.com

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