ELECTRIC CARS ARE ALREADY UPENDING AMERICA; After years of promise, a massive shift is under way. (Saahil Desai, DECEMBER 29, 2023, The Atlantic)
In 2023, our battery-powered future became so much more real—a boom in sales and new models is finally starting to push us into the post-gas age. Americans are on track to buy a record 1.44 million of them in 2023, according to a forecast by BloombergNEF, about the same number sold from 2016 to 2021 total. “This was the year that EVs went from experiments, or technological demonstrations, and became mature vehicles,” Gil Tal, the director of the Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC Davis, told me. They are beginning to transform not just the automotive industry, but also the very meaning of a car itself.
If the story of American EVs has long hinged on one company—Tesla—then this was the year that these cars became untethered from Elon Musk’s brand. “We’re at a point where EVs aren’t necessarily exclusively for the upper, upper, upper class,” Robby DeGraff, an analyst at the market-research firm AutoPacific, told me. If you wanted an electric car five years ago, you could choose from among various Tesla models, the Chevy Bolt, the Nissan Leaf—and that was really it. Now EVs come in more makes and models than Baskin-Robbins ice-cream flavors. We have more luxury sedans to vie with Tesla, but also cheaper five-seaters, SUVs, Hummers, pickup trucks, and … however you might categorize the Cybertruck. Nearly 40 new EVs have debuted since the start of 2022, and they are far more advanced than their ancestors. For $40,000, the Hyundai Ioniq 6, released this year, can get you 360 miles on a single charge; in 2018, for only a slightly lower cost, a Nissan Leaf couldn’t go half that distance.
All of these EVs are genuinely great for the planet, spewing zero carbon from their tailpipes, but that’s only a small part of what makes them different. In the EV age, cars are no longer just cars. They are computers. Stripping out a gas engine, transmission, and 100-plus moving parts turns a vehicle into something more digital than analog—sort of like how typing on an iPhone keyboard is different than on my clackety old Samsung flip phone. “It’s the software that is really the heart of an EV,” DeGraff said—it runs the motors, calculates how many miles are left on a charge, optimizes the brakes, and much more.