I’m sitting on a curb with 3 of my colleagues at a mini-mart in the Sierra Nevada foothills. We’re swatting flies, reapplying sunblock, and waiting for our electric vehicle to charge when a Subaru Outback, bikes loaded on the back, pulls up to a gas pump. In 7 minutes (I timed them), the family fills the tank, tosses its recyclables, and even uses the bathroom. Then they’re off, leaving us in their dust.
My crew had pulled in to the spartan charging station next door nearly an hour earlier—and our EV is still plugged in. Once it’s charged, we’ll hop back on the road, only to repeat this ritual in a parking lot about 3 hours and 180 miles from here. The irony isn’t lost on us: We’re experiencing what’s billed as the automotive future, yet the family in the Subaru is the one on its way to a weekend of fun.
But we’re not here for fun. Vehicle testing is what we do for a living. For 20-plus years, our company, The CarLab, has helped more than a dozen carmakers design new vehicles. We’ve done consumer research and testing—tens of thousands of miles of it—on more than 20 EVs since 2005. And we’ve never been busier than we are now.
That’s because in the world of cars, EVs are the buzz. They’ve made some of America’s newest billionaires, are promoted by governments around the globe as a way to combat climate change, and are more widely available than at any time in the past hundred years. And there’s no shortage of pundits predicting an all-EV future.
But as with any hot new product, how do we separate truth from hype? What does the EV future hold? And is it time to start shopping for one?