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Electric cars are closer to a breakthrough than you might think

Now What looks into how Tesla Battery Day might move the ball -- a lot.

It's late 2020 and the auto world is still divided over what will make most people consider an electric car. Range? Charging infrastructure? Cost? Driving feel? What we know consumers like is clarity, not a debate. Now what?

Tesla is about to hold its much-awaited Battery Day, during which we may see a major announcement about increased battery energy density, allowing much more energy to be stored in a given size or weight of battery pack. It would be important because it could propel Tesla on both ends of the market.  

"On the higher end of the market you can go for more range," says Sam Abuelsamid, Principal Research Analyst at Guidehouse Research, about an EV metric consumers have become obsessed with. "On the other end, one of the biggest challenges is price point for mainstream consumers." Higher energy density can create EVs with ample range but a much smaller battery that could cost thousands of dollars less. Tesla should be particularly interested in that, since it was the first major EV maker to sunset out of federal subsidies for its cars. 

Tesla Model 3 battery

There's plenty of room under a Tesla Model 3 for a huge battery pack, but a breakthrough in energy density would mean it wouldn't need one. Less weight, lower cost: Both are holy grails.


Beyond the issue of price, a large number of people still see EVs as glorified golf carts that will strand them and take forever to charge. "There's definitely a consumer perception problem," Abuelsamid says, based on consumer research Guidehouse conducts annually. "Most Americans have never actually experienced an EV. It's amazing how much better [their] perceptions are once they actually do." Ample torque and silent performance are two delight factors that don't seem to register with a person until they get behind the wheel. Carmakers haven't helped with their laser focus on range, charge time and price in most advertising.

Porsche and Tesla have, of course, been exceptions to that rule. "Whatever else you may think about Elon Musk, the thing that Tesla has done better than anybody is demonstrate that EVs can be more than just a glorified golf cart," Abuelsamid says. "They're great vehicles in their own right."

Abuelsamid explored many other aspects of future EV success with CNET's Brian Cooley. You can hear them all in the video above.


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.