UT Energy Week hosts discussion on electric vehicles

Kevin Lokuwaduge

UT Energy Week kicked off with a panel discussion over electric vehicles and the challenges the market faces. 

According to a report by the International Energy Agency, the number of electric vehicles used in the world grew 54 percent in 2017. But despite this growth, electric vehicles still face challenges with building infrastructure such as charging stations and customers being afraid to buy these vehicles, said Brandy Brown, a consultant for energy efficiency company CLEAResult. 

“(It’s like) the apprehension when you first started driving … (customers) don’t understand all the components (of an electric car),” Brown said. “If we can get (customers) over that apprehension … we can build awareness.”

The panel discussed ways to make electric cars more marketable. Dave Tuttle, moderator of the discussion and UT Energy Institute research associate, said he owns a Tesla, a prominent electric vehicle brand. 

“It’s the best car I’ve ever had,” Tuttle said. “(Electric) vehicles have to be better vehicles to be adopted … Can manufacturers create a compelling vehicle that happens to be electric?”

Style and comfort are considered more than battery longevity and vehicle range during the car-buying process, according to the panel.

The panel said if an individual buys an electric vehicle and shares their experiences with friends and neighbors, it will allow others to have a more informed decision when buying an electric car.

Diversity of electric car models was another issue the panel discussed. Lin Khoo is the senior VP of strategy for Greenlots, an electric vehicle charging station provider. He said while Tesla has become the face for electric cars, there needs to be more diversity in the industry. 

“There’s not enough electric vehicle models … We need more (companies like) Tesla on the road,” Khoo said. 

 

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Companies like Ford and Rivian, an electric car company based in Michigan, are providing some diversity in the development of electric pickups, according to the panel.

Chemical engineering freshman Adithya Chunangad said he agreed that the electric vehicle industry needs to be more diverse, and one way they can do that is to provide more vehicle models. 

“In order for electric vehicles to become more prevalent globally, there needs to be companies that provide a similar service,” Chunangad said. 

UT Energy Week will be continuing this week at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, discussing various topics in the energy field.