EVs up against the ‘hype cycle’

Gartner Hype Cycle

Late last year, there was a little dustup between John German, senior fellow at the International Council on Clean Transportation, and the author of an online article in the New Yorker titled “Why Electric Vehicles Have Stalled.”

The story said that German believes EVs are a valid alternative but not for mainstream consumers.

“It's an interesting piece as far as it goes (and of course it's nice to get quoted in the New Yorker), but it doesn't really go as far as it should,” German wrote in a blog post.

One problem he cited was that the article was too narrowly focused, and didn’t give credit to “the diverse paths to reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions.” Scientific reports have shown that we can make both conventional and hybrid vehicles more efficient now, and that there is great potential for battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles in the long run.

“We really have to bear down on conventional technologies in the short run,” German wrote. “At the same time, we also need to work hard now on overcoming barriers to battery electric and fuel cell vehicles. We need to be more strategic and rational about how we deploy technology and infrastructure, in order to effectively create a future in which battery electric and fuel cell vehicles can take the prominent role that we need them to play in our transportation system.”

His main point was that the critics of the current state of development of electric vehicles are victims of the “hype cycle,” part of the natural and historic pattern of adopting new technologies. (The "hype cycle," illustrated above, is "a branded graphical tool developed and used by IT research and advisory firm Gartner for representing the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies," according to Wikipedia.)

“While battery electric vehicles have not matched the inflated expectations of the past few years, sales have still increased by over 50 percent this year and more models are continuously being introduced,” German wrote. “Battery electric and fuel cell vehicles are both long-term solutions, whose ultimate success or failure will not be determined by current expectations but by our commitment—or lack thereof—to long-range planning, steady technological development, and far-sighted public policy.”

We couldn’t agree more.