Solving the EV problem

The EV problem is not range. The problem is charging time. “Most electric vehicles today,” said James Frith, “can do an 80% charge in twenty minutes or so. That’s probably slightly longer than people want to stop at a gas station on a long journey, but it’s not unreasonable.” 

While technically correct it is psychologically wrong. The problem isn’t “twenty minutes”. The problem is “gas station”. 

When I started driving, gas stations were dirty. In high school, I worked manual labor and we rated the gas stations on how horrible they were. They were bad even to a crew of teenage and twenty-year-old boys working for an asphalt company. 

But gas stations have gotten better as they have become less like gas stations. Buc-ee’s – a Texan invention – is a gas station that became a tourist destination. People want to stop. That seems like the kind of place someone could spend twenty minutes. 

So it’s not the wait, it’s the quality. 

There are different forms of twenty minutes. A twenty-minute wait in the McDonald’s drive-thru is different from a twenty-minute nap while your wife and daughters go to a craft store. You’re frustrated by the first and delighted by the second. 

The classic gas station is the wrong model and the industry changes reflect that. An ideal charging station then is a nice place to spend twenty minutes. It’s a place to buy coffee and food and use a nice bathroom. Maybe there’s a playground or park? It should have solar so customers get a psychic reward for their time. 

Another avenue is to ask where do people already wait twenty minutes? Fast-casual meals are at least twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is the length of an episode of The Good Place. Headspace could use charging stations as a customer acquisition channel – we all could use a little less stress on the not-so-open roads. 

In Alchemy Rory Sutherland suggests that we invest too much in physics rather than psychological solutions. Physics, like battery technology, is hard because the rules don’t change. Psychology is easier because sometimes the rules change. What’s a long wait in one case is a short one in another. That’s how to solve the EV equation. 

I wrote about Headspace here and “personal recharging” is a great opportunity. 

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