Electric Cars and Culture: Where do the Dreamers Beat the Planners?

Martin Karaffa
5 min readMar 3, 2020
146962233 © Andrei Gabriel Stanescu | Dreamstime.com. Used under editorial license

Have a look at this list of battery-electric vehicles to be available in 2020, top ten in order of range.

Source: Motor Trend

  1. Tesla Roadster: 620 mi/992 km
  2. Rivian R1T: 400+ mi/643+ km
  3. Tesla Model S LR: 373 mi/ 600 km
  4. Tesla Model X LR: 328 mi/528 km
  5. Tesla Model 3 LR: 322 mi/518 km
  6. Ford Mustang Mach E (2021 MY) : 210–300 mi/338–483 km
  7. Tesla Model Y: 300 mi/483 km
  8. Polestar 2: 285 mi/489 km
  9. Chevrolet Bolt EV: 259 mi/417 km
  10. Hyundai Kona: 258 mi/415 km

Of the 10 longest-range BEVs, eight come from US manufacturers.

It would be easy to cite geography as a reason. Americans just plain drive more: 13000 km per year vs 6500 in the UK, 6300 in Germany and a slim 3900 in Japan. Spread-out suburbs, long commutes, and road-trips between medium-sized cities are simply a fact of American life.

But I’d argue that national culture plays a bigger role.

I’ve been kicking around the German automotive scene for quite a while, and am aghast at how often some local auto execs dismiss consumer concerns about BEV range. “Most people only drive around 45 km a day, so it won’t be a problem,” they maintain, “Or at least it won’t be a problem when they get used to it.”

It won’t be a practical problem. But it will be an emotional problem.

Germany — like Japan, China and most other European nations — scores highly on the the Hofstede dimension of Long Term Orientation. People in these cultures like to plan. The plans may be hopeful, but they’re realistic. Cultural scholars sometimes call this trait pragmatism.

Germany scores 83 out of a possible 100 on Long Term Orientation. The United States, 26.

Will Americans ever develop the discipline to plan their lives to accommodate a limited-range battery electric car? Speaking as a native-born American, I think the chance is slim.

In the case of the American market, a second cultural factor comes into play. It’s what…

--

--

Martin Karaffa

Marty is an independent strategy consultant specialising in global brands and communications. He is also an Associate Partner of The Culture Factor.