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Crossing the Chasm

Updated: Feb 26

There has been a lot of press about EVs and the adoption rate in the US.  The headlines are very eye-catching and usually have a slant. 

CNBC: Nearly half of Americans say it’s unlikely they’ll buy an EV as their next car

Reuters: One-third of Americans would consider EV Purchase

Kelley Blue Book: Survey: Most Americans Say They Won’t Buy an EV Next

Business Insider: Most Americans still don’t want an electric car

The numbers vary in these articles, but the surveys usually show that only about 30% would make an EV their next car purchase.  To put it another way, 70% will buy a gas car with their next purchase. 

Electric vehicles have become a polarizing subject, and some cheer these numbers with an emotional attachment from both a For and Against position.  When I see these numbers, I see something completely different.  I see a product that is crossing the chasm. 

In Geoffrey Moore’s famous 1991 book, Crossing the Chasm, he describes how an innovative product evolves and must be marketed to different groups.  The innovators and early adopters are the first groups to get on board.  The next group is the early majority, followed by the late majority, and finally the laggards.  Before a new product can reach the early majority, it must jump the chasm.  The chasm is where great ideas go to die.

Many products that don’t make it over the chasm.  The Segway and 3D TV are just two examples.  They were great products but never quite made it into the early majority to become accepted by society on a large scale. 

The key, according to Moore, is to exceed 16% of consumer acceptance (2.5% are the innovators, and 13.5% are the early adopters).  EVs have a 9% penetration rate in the US today.  With one third of people saying their next car will be an EV, it is clear that 16% is on the horizon. That is true even with the restricted charging infrastructure and grid limitations.  

I understand why so many Americans are against EVs.  Rugged individualism, free choice, self-reliance, and the entrepreneurial spirit make us of who we are.  It’s encoded in our DNA. That is one reason there are so many fast-growing tech companies in the US. Unfortunately, it also means that we hate being told what to do, especially by the government.  For some, government support is reason enough not to consider an EV.

Left to our own devices, the US would accept EVs at a slower pace, but would eventually catch up to the rest of the world.  The government incentives and investment into infrastructure is accelerating the adoption.  Sooner or later, it will happen.  Electric vehicles are crossing the chasm and are here to stay, regardless of which side you are on.

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