Our friend Chelsea Sexton, co-founder of EV advocacy group Plug In America, says that Nissan, Coda and other electric-vehicle makers need to focus more on the heart and less on the head when it comes to pitching EVs to prospective buyers.

Sexton, who was recently hired by Nissan as a consultant, spoke with Plug In Cars and explaind that she thinks customers need to know more about what an enjoyable and fun driving experience cars like the Leaf can provide, and not merely the benefits of not having to fill up with gasoline. This is a message she's been trying to get across for, literally, years. Companies also need to be more involved in online communities of alt-fuel vehicle drivers and give potential buyers more opportunities to test-drive the vehicles, she said.

Sexton, who went as far as calling Coda's efforts "tragic," also said automakers need to discourage their dealers from marking up EV prices above the MSRP. Curiously, Sexton also said the low-volume Honda Fit EV, and not the Leaf, was the best EV she'd driven that didn't have a Tesla powertrain.


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  • 51 Comments
      Neil Blanchard
      • 1 Year Ago
      A full-throated and sincere appeal to the good people in charge at Honda: PLEASE SELL the Fit EV in all places where you sell cars! Neil
        Neil Blanchard
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Neil Blanchard
        Oh, and I hope that Chelsea Sexton can help the engineers working on EV's in general and the Leaf in particular to improve the efficiency of the car platform - if the Leaf was a similar Cd to the EV1 then it's range could be 140 miles or even more. And if they could install the direct-heating electric defroster like Ford and others had back in the 90's - a molecule thick layer of gold on the glass defrosts it in about 3 seconds - then they could keep 90%+ of that range in cold weather. Heated seats are good, and electric heated vests would be great - each person could be kept toasty warm for 20-30 watts, which is about half of a conventional headlight. Neil
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Neil Blanchard
        @Neil: "if the Leaf was a similar Cd to the EV1 then it's range could be 140 miles " Not likely, as the Leaf range isn't aerodynamically limited. Even if it were, the Leaf going from rather mediocre (but honest) 0.28 down to a world-class 0.19 only improves the range by about 50-60%, so the 70-mile AER goes up to 110 miles. Definitely not 140 miles. Realistically, cutting the Cd to 0.19 would give about half the benefit, so it'd go from 70 miles AER to something more like 90 miles AER. Of course, if you count by niles ("Nissan miles"), then you need to compare with my 1990s SVX getting roughly 800 niles per tank, not a real-world 500 miles.
          MTN RANGER
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          The other half of the EV1 equation is its very light weight and two-seater capacity. Through the use of aluminum structure and composite panels, it only weighed 2900 lbs (and that includes the gigantic 1147 lb NIMH battery!).
          Neil Blanchard
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          The Leaf is rated by the EPA at 340Wh/mile (aka 99MPGe), and it can be driven wisely to use under 250Wh/mile. The EPA range of 73 miles means it is using about 306Wh/mile. The EV1 was capable of about 160Wh/mile. The Illuminati Motor Works 'Seven' is rated at 207MPGe (tested at the Chrysler proving grounds in Chelsea MI) and it has a Cd of ~0.23 and it weighed about 2,900 pounds. It is equal to (or slightly better) than the EV1. The Edison2 VLCe has a Cd of 0.164 and is rated at 245MPGe, and is close to 100Wh/mile. The SIM-LEI and SIM-WIL cars also have ranges well over 200 miles on ~25kWh and 33kWh packs respectively. The SIM-LEI has a Cd of 0.19 - so it goes about 3X as far as the Leaf on a pack that is just ~1kWh larger. The DOD on the Leaf's battery pack is about 93% yielding about 22.3kWh of usable charge, and at 160Wh/mile that means the range is ~140 miles. Neil
          Neil Blanchard
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          The IMW 'Seven' weighs 2,900 pounds including its ~33kWh lithium pack, and it seats four. It has a range of 210+ miles on a charge. The SIM-LEI and SIM-WIL cars have well over 200 mile ranges on a ~25kWh and ~33kWh pack respectively, and they weigh at least as much as the EV1 - and they seat 4 people. The SIM-LEI has a Cd of 0.19 - it has a pack just about 1kWh larger than the Leaf - and yet it has a range that is almost 3X farther than the Leaf. Why can't the Nissan engineers figure out how to get the energy consumption of the Leaf down to 150Wh/mile or less? By the way, weight is not as important as aerodynamic drag. The kinetic energy of the car (i.e. the moving mass) can be used directly for free wheel coasting, which means that you use less to accelerate it, then coast as far as you can, and only then do you use regenerative braking to stop the car. The Honda Fit EV has free wheel coasting in Eco mode and it has a longer range with a small pack than the Leaf. Nissan needs to improve the regen design, they need to improve the Cd, and they need to use direct heating defroster, and they need to offer heated vests (or at least the power connections) - and I think they can get a range of 140 miles, or more, out of their existing 24kWh battery pack. Neil
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          You talked about coefficient of drag, which is purely aerodynamic, and I responded as such. The GM EV1 had other advantages, chiefly lower deadweight and smaller size, which allowed for greater net effficiency not possible on a mass production Leaf. And for what it certainly cost to produce each EV1, you might as well be comparing a Corvette ZR1 with a Versa.
      SVX pearlie
      • 1 Year Ago
      @Grendal: If someone is making $90k annually, they should be looking at a $30k new car, not a $90k new car. And cheaper would be even more prudent. Which is basically the "value" niche that Subaru has a lock on, selling $20k cars to people who could afford $30k cars, and $30k cars to people who could afford $45k cars. Nevertheless, a $7500 Federal rebate direct to the OEM allows them to sell what would otherwise be a $37.5k car to someone who would otherwise only afford a $30k car on their $90k income. Or, more to the point, a $30k car to someone who would normally afford a $22.5k car on a $65k annual income. Nothing that there are a *lot* more $65k buyers than $90k buyers, which is how one jump starts the market with volume.
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      SVX Pearlie raises some valid issues. While I like Chelsea Sexton's enthusiasm for EV's, pundits, especially on-line pundits, tends to be unrealistic. To achieve volume sales of any consumer product, the consumer needs to be convinced of a tangible real benefit to them personally. Auto-mobile manufactures recognise the balance between practical and aesthetic requirements when designing auto-mobiles to appeal to different buying sectors. For an auto-mobile to be a success, the design must find a large number of buyers to identify with a economy model, or small number of affluent buyers to support a design of limited appeal. Very few buyer's will genuinely purchase a vehicle on moral grounds. (as opposed to buying a vehicle that displays an image of fashionable morality). Since the mechanics most modern auto-mobiles are all reliable and of high quality, issues of convenience and image, have become the principle buying factors, with price and fuel economy secondary considerations. EV or not, low quality vehicles from dubious importers like Coda deserve to fail. The issue of government incentives to encourage any new technology, is a matter for the elected government and the electorate. If the government introduces a measure and is re-elected, it's gained a mandate to continue that policy. If the government believes that encouraging tax breaks for expensive, luxury vehicles to be the best method of developing the economic benefits associated with a new technology, that's the governments prerogative. It might even be the most effective policy, (despite knee jerk unpopularity). Most new technology (especially automotive) was created for luxury models, and once popular, became a standard feature in economy products. It's hard to admit, but even the most EV favourable areas of Europe, low range commuter style EV's, are not capturing the public imagination. At some point the elephant in the room must be addressed. However illogical, range is the negative. (along with charging inconvenience). Governments possess only a certain ability to kick start change. Too much, and the populace will rebel. Evidence of this is the popularity of the SUV, a vehicle created to avoid government regulations aimed at eliminating the US large sedan and S/wagon. EREV's offer a more practical and desirable method of selling EV technology. Individual circumstances may differ, but to achieve volume sales, potential buyers must be drawn from the widest possible demographic. EV sales in the US, will soon come under challenge from vehicles fuelled by Natural Gas products. NG technology is cheap, and used successfully for over 40 years. NG is economically more attractive within the context of the US economy. These may be unpleasant realities, but they must be addressed if EV's are to progress.
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marcopolo
        Chels is preaching to the EV-owning choir, as usual. Nothing wrong with that, but she's just a little out of touch with the median car buyer, who is looking for one car which basically does it all. Not a car which does 90% and requires the hassle of arranging alternative transportation 10% of the time. What she, and most other EV advocates miss is that BEVs won't gain mass adoption until they fulfill something like 98% to 99% of a buyers' needs, and that last 1-2% can be met nearly frictionlessly. That's why EREVs are going to continue being the volume sellers for the foreseeable future.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          @ SVX pearlie It's nice to be in accord ! (no pun intended)
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Oh, I think EVs that handle 90% of your needs will sell but they need to have an economic advantage. But that is pretty tough to do considering the current cheap gas prices and high EV prices. They are just not going to catch on until the price of EVs drop or the price of gas shoots up.
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marcopolo
        I agree with your comments and SVX's. I'm a fan of EVs. I want to see them succeed. But in order for them to succeed beyond the EV hardcore, the cars must actually make sense for the average buyer. Not just as a statement, but as an actual car. And I hold EVs to that standard. If we accept less, then we doom EVs to remain forever a niche. It doesn't mean that hardcore can't buy current EVs despite the lack of broad market appeal, but we have to see clearly and understand where EVs fall short and will continue to do so for a while. And that's why I keep saying some of the things that the EV hardcore see as unrelentingly negative. Because I want more. I do agree that natural gas is going to cream EVs in the short term. Especially given right now in California NG vehicles get the same white sticker that EVs do. That means that as long as EVs are getting the coveted ability to drive solo in a carpool lane, NG vehicles will too. And that's a problem. Those stickers drive adoption. They drove the Prius adoption, they're driving LEAF and PHEV adoption right now. And that's why I feel we all should push hard for California to split NG and EV vehicles into two separate stickers so that NG stickers can be expired early if there driving adoption of them is no longer desirable without harming adoption of EVs. Currently, NG vehicles have no slated expiration date (as EVs do not), unlike PHEVs (including EREVs), which have a slated expiration of two years from today. This just won't make sense for much longer as NG vehicles become so cheap to adopt that driving adoption through incentives is no longer needed.
      Peder Norby
      • 1 Year Ago
      As a Honda Fit EV and a BMW ActiveE driver I completely agree with Chelsea's comments about the FIT EV. I'm very perplexed about Why Honda won't market this car. During the lease process they did not even tell their CA drivers that they were eligible for a $2500 carb rebate, thus lowering the effective monthly payment. There is also no mention of this on their web portal. Watching all the other car companies market their EV's, I wonder why Honda is so silent? Honda has worked with their drivers in focus groups and home interviews and it's clear they are planning another EV following the Fit EV in the coming years. The Honda Accord plug in also is coming on the market this year and looks to be a great PHEV as well. We also love the BMW ActiveE but that field trial car has had drivetrain issues and software issues that are still being ironed out pre production for the BMW i3. The Honda Fit EV has been bullet proof right out of the gate with a proven drive-train combo and great software and sensors such as a temp sensor on the j1772 charging port. The Fit EV is a great little car that is super practical and functional. Here's a recent post on the car. http://ourfitev.blogspot.com/2012/12/loving-honda-fit-ev-notogas-life.html Cheers Peder
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Peder Norby
        If people could buy rather than least the Fit EV they would also have the best battery in the business from Toshiba.
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Peder Norby
        @ Peder Norby "The Fit EV is a great little car that is super practical and functional.Why Honda won't market this car ?". As always Peder, I admire your enthusiasm. However, like Chelsea, you are judging everyone else by your own unique circumstances. Companies like Honda, before committing to volume manufacture, must consider the viability of selling a vehicle in sufficient numbers to become profitable. Toyota, and Renault/Nissan have sufficient resources to gamble on an unknown market. So far the Leaf has cost Nissan/Renault nearly $7 billion. (making the Leaf cost over $175,000 per unit) If the Leaf's technology is successful, some of that cost can be offset by subsidies from the governments of France and Japan. In addition, some of the costs can be amortised throughout the Renault brand. But, for smaller companies like Honda, the risk is enormous. The profit margin on small cars is very tight, so any small economy vehicle, must sell in real volume to be successful. Are there hundreds of thousands of Honda Fit-EV buyer's queuing up to buy Honda Fit-EV's ? You live in a house with a extensive array of solar panels, and a passionate interest to accommodate your travel arrangements to the requirements of EV technology. (Me too). But we don't represent the majority of car buyers ! Every car maker in the world will be watching the success or failure of Renault's Zoe. If the Zoe can't achieve substantial export markets outside France, the obvious lesson will be that the market for small short range EV's doesn't exist in economically supportable numbers, until ESD technology improves. Like you, I would love to see more EV's. But we must be realistic when analysing EV from an industry point of view.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Marcopolo
          @ brotherkenny4 "Honda could sell hundreds of thousands if they wanted to. They choose not to." Do you ever read what you write ? Why would "hundreds of thousands" suddenly buy a Honda Fit EV ? Just wishing something was true, will never make it true. Simply putting your fingers in your ears and voting down reality, won't change reality. Honda don't have the resources to spend mass producing a vehicle that would never recover it's development cost. If Honda thought that the Fit EV could sell hundreds of thousands, it would be producing the Fit tomorrow. Honda is in business to make money, not cater to silly conspiracy theories.
          brotherkenny4
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Marcopolo
          Just like selling the SUVs to the irrational masses, selling EVs to all those who don't actually make a choice, but rather follow the flock, Honda could sell hundreds of thousands if they wanted to. They choose not to.
      SVX pearlie
      • 1 Year Ago
      Quite frankly, Chels is a little bit off in her recommendations. She's coming from a privileged EV background and advocates largely ineffectual change around the edges. A good example of this is how she looks at the Federal tax credit and suggests phasing out for higher-end EVs (i.e. Tesla). The people who'd buy a Tesla should still expect the tax credit, but pushing the effective ownership level from someone making $120k annually up to $150k does nothing to expand the market the way that the credit was designed. OTOH, if these were flat rebates direct to the OEM, that'd be a different story. And the rebate program should not be volume-based, which punishes OEMs for selling their cars early. Rather, it should encourage mass production and mass sale. For example, the $7500 maximum rebate should be offered for a minimum duration, and then taper down in value over time. $7500 through 2014, $6000 through 2016, $4500 through 2018, $3000 to 2020, etc. so it phases out completely in 2025. The first movers get basically all of the benefits, where the second and third movers get far less, because they're riding on the market and technology built by those who actually pushed things forward.
        Grendal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        I like your idea better than Chelsea's idea. If you're going to promote the new technology, then promote the new technology. The cars price is somewhat beside the point. No "rich" person is going to buy an EV just to get a paltry $7500 extra back in their taxes. It does allow someone who makes, say, $90K a year consider buying an $88K Tesla.when they would normally buy a $40K to $50K car.
      Giza Plateau
      • 1 Year Ago
      I believe the choice of SCiB was a mistake. A 24kWh pack weighs 400+kg in batteries alone. An A123 pack would weigh 200kg and best laptop cells would weigh little over 100kg. Plus packaging and the structural weight of the car to carry that. I understand that the price is similarly problematic and perhaps why Honda isn't promoting it.
      Dave
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm not worried.
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      Toshiba for the Fit EV have traded some of the cycle life for a high DOD, reserving only around 5% as against around 20% for most batteries. Since presumably most will not run to that depth most days, I doubt that the effect will be severe. If Honda have engineered the Accord plug in as well, then buyers will be fortunate indeed.
      SVX pearlie
      • 1 Year Ago
      Don't worry, the credit will be around for the next couple years.
      EZEE
      • 1 Year Ago
      Oh Dear Lord Now lets be serious, people. Focus on the heart, instead of the head. For something that will cost between $25,000 and $100,000. I suppose she is right, in that anyone spending that kind of money on a vehicle that goes 1/3 of the distance (tesla not included, they rock) and take hours to fill up, you simply CANNOT appeal to logic and reasoning. I mean MY GOD I am not spending that kind of money on something that I will need to spend another pile of cash for ANOTHER vehicle that I will use when I go further than eighty miles! Jeez.... Prius C to buy, Volt to lease. And I would do that with my brain, not my heart.
        Dave
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EZEE
        "Volt to lease" Only while the tax credit lasts
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EZEE
        When automakers focused on emotional appeal rather than the empirical need for utility back in the 90's... they were able to sell a butt load of large pickup trucks that got terrible fuel economy and cost a lot more than smaller passenger vehicles. They sold America a dream of towing boats, climbing mountains, and hauling lumber.... to suburban husbands and wives who would never see a boat, mountain or a lumber mill,... but only a 20 mile, 1 hour commute in heavy traffic to the office building in the city. THAT is the focus on the Heart. People are inherently irrational... which is why advertising works and companies spend a LARGE portion of their budgets on Marketing... more so than on R&D even.
          Dave
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          "When automakers focused on emotional appeal rather than the empirical need for utility back in the 90's... they were able to sell a butt load of large pickup trucks that got terrible fuel economy and cost a lot more than smaller passenger vehicles." The majority of people like spacious vehicles with road presence. Thats nothing new. People look at me like I have two heads when I climb out of my Miata. When CAFE regs favor trucks, people buy trucks. Otherwise, they would probably return to the 50s/60s/70s land yachts. The 80s small car fad ended when gas prices dropped and mpg went up.
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      I wonder what it would take to persuade Honda to do the Fit EV in some decent volume? Chelsea is darn right, it is the best BEV that is out there, with the best battery system, the best drive and no compromise on accomodation.
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DaveMart
        Big sales and requests for purchases outside the CARB states.
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Fit EV is a good car. Too bad it's only a compliance car.
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