GM’s solution to the EV education problem
Among consumers, a lack of knowledge about EVs still persists throughout the automotive industry. GM’s EV Live tool is the automotive giant’s way to address it. But how effective is it?
- The problem: The electric vehicle (EV) industry for light-duty passenger vehicles has matured since 2015, but a lack of education and knowledge among consumers is still holding back adoption.
- GM’s attempt to address the problem: EV Live provides consumers a no-sell opportunity via one-way video call to learn anything and everything about EVs.
- Will EV Live fill the knowledge gap? It’s hard to have an issue with something like EV Live because it provides an additional avenue to educate consumers. But I question how impactful it’s been since its launch in July 2022.
Inadequate EV education
Looking back to 2015, the early days of the EV transition, consumer concerns such as range anxiety and lack of charging stations held back adoption. Fast forward to 2023, and it’s pretty clear to me that range anxiety is no longer an issue: A majority of all EVs have a range of 300-plus miles — more than enough for an individual or fleet owner to drive in between charging sessions.
As time goes on, more stations are being added to the 160,000 stations already available in the U.S. Of course, other charging issues such as reliability and uptime still exist. In a way, we may be shifting from an industry plagued with range anxiety to now having charging anxiety.
One issue holding back EV adoption that existed during the early days and still is rampant today: a lack of EV education. Consumer Reports found in 2022 that 28 percent of Americans still won’t even consider an EV. Just looking at knowledge around incentives, 46 percent of Americans have not even heard about any incentives available for EV owners. Another 2022 study by J.D. Power found that nearly 30 percent of EV rejecters cite a lack of information surrounding EVs.
Many factors can dictate whether someone lacks education on any given topic and it’s important to take even these studies with a grain of salt — Consumer Reports, for example, surveyed only about 8,000 people. However, even anecdotally, it’s clear a lack of education still exists.
If you’ve ever driven an EV then you have experienced the usual encounter with curious individuals coming up to you and asking numerous questions. But should consumers really have so many unanswered questions about EVs in 2023?
Reasons for lack of EV knowledge
The dealership model has been one reason for the lack of EV education largely because some dealers themselves lack sufficient knowledge about EVs, which hampers their ability to educate potential customers. Another reason may just be that the EV industry is still growing and more time is needed for individuals to see EVs on the road and become familiar with them. Super Bowl 2023 brought with it a massive wave of EV commercials from automakers, including a GM commercial in partnership with Netflix and Netflix’s earlier announcement to include more EVs in Netflix TV shows and movies. More EV advertisements will help increase awareness among consumers.
GM’s possible solution?
GM invited me as part of a small group in New York City to experience its EV Live initiative and I have to say, I kinda liked it. I wanted to objectively see if EV Live would help address the EV education gap that exists in the market.
The nice thing about EV Live is that you don’t have to take my word for what it’s like: You can experience it right now. Once you pull up the website, you are prompted to join a live one-way video tour. After you go through scheduling your time to chat, the one-way video stream opens you up to a beautifully designed studio with everything your heart could desire concerning EVs (well, GM EVs, but still).
At first glance, it almost feels like what you are viewing is prerecorded footage. However, you quickly realize that you are speaking to a paid GM employee who is standing in a real studio, ready and available to answer any questions you have about EVs. It’s a unique experience and among your back and forth with the GM employee, you see other GM employees walking around with a phone strapped to a gimbal doing exactly what the individual speaking with you is doing — talking about EVs with someone interested in learning more.
In speaking with Hoss Hassani, GM’s vice president of EV ecosystems and Caley Hill, EV ecosystem manager, I asked how they see EV Live competing with GM’s dealership model. They informed me that they see the two working hand in hand and are even seeing GM dealers use EV Live to educate themselves on EVs and also help customers during vehicle sales.
I personally also see EV Live being widely used by a company interested in teaching its employees about EVs as the company transitions its fleet. In speaking with so many companies electrifying fleets, a common concern I hear is that some employees still have hesitations about EVs, driven by a lack of knowledge.
A possible hurdle
It’s hard to find issues with something like EV Live. At the end of the day, more educational resources are always better as the EV transition continues. In engaging with the GM employee answering our questions on the other end of the one-way video call, just as we would be if we joined from our personal device, I got a sense that information was being presented in a very clear and digestible way to the average consumer.
However, a part of me questioned just how often a person would actually use this resource or even know it exists if their traditional thought when looking to purchase a new vehicle is (a) go to a dealership or (b) research specific models online. I was pleasantly surprised to see that GM is actively promoting EV Live front and center on its website. As of this writing, the whole GM homepage is pretty much focused on EVs, and just below the header showcasing the aforementioned GM commercial is the button to click to join an EV Live session. However, I wasn’t able to find EV Live links as easily when diving directly into the various GM automotive brands pages — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.
It will be interesting to see data from GM in the future on the number of people who call in and how that impacts EV sales. A part of me wonders how many people are calling in daily and if GM wants to boost those numbers by doing these types of showings to individuals like myself, given it’s been some time since EV Live launched in July 2022. But based on my initial experience, I am feeling hopeful that it will help provide another resource to increase EV education.