5 Things Electric Cars Are Changing Right Now

Aaron Turpen

So far, electric cars are only a tiny fraction of the overall automotive market in the United States and worldwide. In most markets, electric car sales are less than one percent of the overall sales unless you include hybrids, which then boost those figures to around three percent. Yet these vehicles, despite their lack of market penetration, are changing many things about how we view, drive, and think about cars and the automotive industry.

The automotive industry as a whole is a huge business. Billions of vehicles are sold every year, and each of those vehicles have thousands of constituent parts that go into them. Further, the aftermarket sale of additions and accessories, fuels, and more add to the economic value of each vehicle sold. Whether the car is a gasoline-driven, diesel-operated, or electric car does not change this paradigm.

So how are electric cars changing things? Here are five ways, some of which may be very different from the way you think electric cars have impacted us.

For electric cars, because of their inherent expectation of lower maintenance, not only does the owner save money over time thanks to less maintenance, but dealerships make less money through the maintenance model. This is a premise that doesn't always pan out, according to TorqueNews, but for many electric cars and their owners, it is the case.

Tesla Motors itself does not have traditional dealerships, and thus doesn't have a profit incentive directly related to maintenance. Other electric cars, such as the Nissan LEAF (the best-seller in the EV market) are sold under the traditional dealership model, but have shown fewer maintenance requirements than traditional internal combustion cars.

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Although many point to Tesla Motors as the game-changer in the way dealerships are viewed by both the automaker and the car buying public, the fact is the dealership model has been changing for some time. Electric cars are pushing some of these changes along, however, with our #1 reason being a primary motivator.

Technology is helping, of course. As more and more people get comfortable with the idea of shopping and purchasing online, the way we purchase cars is naturally changing as well. Although most car buyers still don't buy cars without actually visiting a dealership to test drive and kick the tires, electric cars are more often sold to internet buyers than are other vehicles. Remember that in the dealership model we have now, direct sales via the internet are not really possible (yet), but more and more shoppers look at the dealership's cars online before showing up in person. For electric cars, this is even more true.

One of the persistent myths about electric cars is that they're expensive and either under- or over-performing. While the Tesla Motors dominance of much of the EV news may perpetuate this, the company has plans to create a car priced in the average buyer's range (read about the Model III here). The problem with this thought process is that Tesla is actually a small player in the overall market for electric cars.

The best-selling EV in history is the Nissan LEAF, which now has more than 100,000 cars on the road. This is an affordably-priced electric that most people can afford. It has limitations, but they are fewer than many might think and the cars are gaining popularity fast. Most LEAF buyers make less than $100,000 per year, destroying the "rich boy" myth.

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If you're the type who invests in commodities (we are by no means investment gurus or advisors, of course), you might consider lithium. Currently, lithium usage is split between several industries, but according to Bloomberg, it's batteries for electric cars that will drive it forward. The overall battery market is about 36 percent of lithium use, which may surprise many who wouldn't know that lithium is a primary ingredient for ceramics and glass, many lubricants, air conditioning, and more.

This is a touchy subject, of course, but studies are showing that electric cars, even if they are adopted in huge numbers, would not heavily impact pollution overall. The primary reason for this is the up-front cost (in terms of pollution) to build an EV and the down-the-road costs of the electricity made to power it. This is a point of some contention, obviously, and the impact of electric cars on the climate, pollution levels, etc. will differ depending on who it is you're asking.

Still, a study from North Carolina State University indicates that oxides would not be significantly reduced even if electric cars were adopted in large numbers. The Tesla Model S was specifically questioned in an article last year, now widely-cited, on Slate.

The impact that electric cars are having on the automotive industry and our auto culture is real. We're seeing it daily. The discussion about cars, how they operate, how they're purchased and serviced is happening every day. So even if electric cars are not widely adopted as a consumer choice, they are changing the way we think about cars as a whole.

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