Automakers Amp Up Electric Debuts, But Infrastructure Still Not There

The new electric vehicle launches have been coming fast and furious the last few weeks.

The debuts, which used to happen almost exclusively at auto shows, are no longer reserved strictly for media. Automakers are also taking to Facebook Live and YouTube to share the excitement with consumers.

The latest is Hyundai, which unveiled the all-electric Ioniq 5 this afternoon on YouTube. The vehicle is the first model in Hyundai’s new family of Ioniq electric vehicles.

The automaker promises that the compact utility vehicle, which goes on sale in the fall, will “disrupt the EV market with ultra-fast charging and vehicle-to-load power capability and up to 300 miles of driving range.”

The vehicle is also a power source on wheels. The vehicle-to-load function allows customers to freely use or charge electric devices, such as electric bicycles, scooters or camping equipment out of the vehicle. 

Last week, Ford caused a buzz with the unveiling of the all-electric F-150 Lightning. The 33-minute live reveal had been viewed more than 1.4 million times on YouTube as of press time. Even my non-journalist friends on social media were talking about the vehicle and the reveal.

One of the promos was a five-minute segment on NBC’s "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." A series of live ad promos ahead of the show helped to generate excitement. It was aired across NBCUniversal networks including Bravo, E!, SYFY, USA Network, Golf Channel, Universo and Telemundo.

“I want to go electric,” Fallon said. “You know, the F in F-150 stands for Fallon.”

Also last week, Kia unveiled another compact utility vehicle, the EV6, in Times Square via a 42-screen takeover with 150 videos. The brand was last in Times Square during a subdued New Year’s Eve celebration this past Dec. 31. 

The EV6, also expected to have a 300-mlle range, is Kia’s first dedicated electric vehicle without a gas-powered or hybrid counterpart. It will be the first vehicle to reflect the company’s shift in brand identity. Kia is dropping the “Motors” in its name and introducing a new logo, which it unveiled in January.

Like Hyundai, Kia is also promising a battery that can charge from 10% to 80% in under 18 minutes. But that’s at a Level 3 DC Fast public charger, which require at least a 440-volt DC power supply. At a cost of around $50,000, the fast chargers aren't an option for home use. 

I think these claims are somewhat misleading to uneducated consumers who may not understand the differences in home vs. public charging systems. Obviously, high-speed public charging is not free. And Level 3 chargers are still in limited supply, especially outside of California. A recent Forbes article details how the lack of EV charging stations could limit EV growth. 

While 18 minutes sounds great, are impatient consumers willing to sit and wait that long for a partial charge, vs. the three to five minutes it takes to fill up a vehicle with an internal combustion engine with a tank of gasoline?

Time will tell how willing consumers really are to go electric, but the automakers are certainly banking on it, if these hyped reveals are any indication.

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