I have a friend who is a connector (according to Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, "the kinds of people who know everyone") and he just bought an electric car.
Given that his green cred is far outweighed by his credentials as a connector -- he makes connections (he's in business development) for a social networking site (LinkedIn) -- I think this bodes well for the EV future. Of course, given his more corporate profile I wasn't surprised that he chose a modified EV as a point of entry into the electric world.
His last car was a Prius and he upgraded to a Chevy Volt, which like the Prius is technically a hybrid. But unlike conventional hybrids, it's nearly always powered by it's electric motor so while he has a total range of about 379 miles, his electric range is only about 40 miles.
And this is where the car starts to change behavior, and I would argue, what makes it a game changer. With its tiny gas engine, the Volt is attractive to a more mainstream customer with range anxiety, but thanks to series of built-in nudges, the car doesn't let you forget that the most efficient way to drive is by trying to maximize your electric miles.
It's a type of Volt videogame to clock a new mpg personal best. There's the on-board computer that gives you a running reminder of your mpg (or the electric equivalent), as well as driving tips to help you improve upon it (e.g. driving technique, climate control).
And then there's the iPhone app where my friend proudly showed me his lifetime mpg. He also flashed me the breakdown of electric miles he'd traveled since his last fuel up versus gas miles clocked and it was obvious which was the goal.
An EV state of mind
The Chevy Volt has weathered critique -- it's too expensive, it's not really an electric car, the environmental cost of two motors -- but the car is still a game changer because it's forcing its owners to really think about where their fuel comes from, every morning and night.
When I met up with my friend last week at the end of his commute, within the first 5 minutes of seeing him (after a year spent on separate continents), he explained he needed to pull into the garage to plug in.
He was in an EV state of mind. Since he was on vacation and away from his 240 volt home charger, he knew he needed all 10 hours before returning to work to top off his battery with the 120V charger.
Since I was spending the night with my friend (Scott Roberts) and his family, I pulled out my camera to document an overnight with the Volt.