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How new tech could put more EVs on the road
Jan 10, 2023

How new tech could put more EVs on the road

At CES 2023, automakers and tech companies demonstrated their efforts to keep pace with electric vehicle demand and help consumers make the most of the time devoted to charging their cars.

CES, formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, wrapped up Sunday in Las Vegas. There was a lot to process.

The annual event showcased plenty of smart home technology, virtual reality gadgets, health trackers and even a tech friend for kids — a robot that recognizes facial expressions and moods.

There was also a focus on energy, given the urgency of the climate crisis and the geopolitical events of the last year.

Marketplace reporter Lily Jamali was at the convention looking into some of the latest technology in the energy sector. She spoke to Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino about what she observed.

The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Lily Jamali: EVs — as in electric vehicles — were the big buzzword at this year’s CES. Automakers and suppliers, big and small, are really positioning themselves for the growth of electric vehicles. And for good reason. Right now, electric vehicles have a pretty limited market share — just about 6% of cars sold here in the United States are electric-powered. But that is expected to explode over the next few years, with some projections saying that by 2029, EVs are going to make up a third of the cars sold here in North America. That’s only six years from now. So, there’s this massive opportunity for the Fords and the Toyotas and Teslas of the world as well as smaller startups. But getting to that widespread adoption is far from guaranteed. And what I heard a lot at CES was, “How do we support that? How do we charge all of that stuff? And how will the infrastructure involved be paid for and maintained?”

Meghan McCarty Carino: Right. So what are the big challenges to widespread adoption of EVs? And what kinds of developments might speed that along?

Jamali: Well, one topic that came up a lot, especially from some of the companies involved in producing EV technology, was how to drum up more interest from the American consumer. There was a lot of emphasis on educating the public about the benefits of electric vehicles, saying they often require less maintenance and they can last longer. One executive at a major battery maker said there’s a perception that you’re more likely to get stranded in an EV than a gas-powered vehicle. And they acknowledge that there needs to be more public infrastructure to quickly charge these vehicles. But there was a real sense of optimism about where we’re headed and a feeling that public perceptions are really turning a corner right now.

McCarty Carino: And there was a speech from President Biden’s energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm. She made an appearance talking about federal spending to support EV adoption and the infrastructure needed to charge those electric vehicles. What stood out to you about what she said?

Jamali: Well, she seems super charged up about EVs. Between last year’s Inflation Reduction Act and the infrastructure act from the prior year, there are big plans funded by those laws to build a nationwide network of charging stations for electric vehicles. She also talked about a flood of tax credits for buyers of EVs, both new and used. These are moves aimed at getting more people into EVs.

McCarty Carino: CES always has a lot of gadgets and gizmos. Aside from the actual car itself, it sounds like there is a lot of innovation happening for technology related to the whole EV ecosystem. What did you hear about there?

Jamali: Yeah, this is big. There was so much discussion about how we’re going to be using our cars, more than just as the thing that helps us get from one place to another, but there’s a widespread feeling that the user experience can leave much to be desired.

McCarty Carino: I can attest to that.

Jamali: There are a lot of new technologies out there that reduce the time it takes to more quickly troubleshoot a problem, for example, at an EV charging station because that apparently is quite an issue for a lot of people who actually own these cars and use them. I also spoke with someone at a company called Sheeva.AI, which facilitates payments, i.e., you buying stuff while you’re in your car. Here’s Trevor Curwin, director of strategic partnerships there.

Trevor Curwin: We’re going to be working with another firm to get us into 50,000 EV chargers in North America. You can do curbside delivery, drive-thru, all of that. We use a patented geolocation process to tell us where your car is in real time and then handle the payment processing of whatever the transaction is you want to do. If you want a Mountain Dew, you can get a Mountain Dew. We save time on that transaction. That’s the beautiful part.

Jamali: So, there you have it. Mountain Dew delivered to you in your electric vehicle. There’s so much talk about having fun while you wait for your car to charge. Microsoft is showing off this new in-vehicle video game as an example of something interactive that might help you pass the time because the future seems to be more time spent sitting in our cars.

In case you missed it, last week Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams talked to Jennifer Pattison Tuohy from The Verge about all the smart home tech that was featured at the convention, including a health tracker that analyzes your pee. Apparently you can learn a lot from it — important nutrient levels, hydration, what have you.

And if you want to check out that robot friend for kids I mentioned, it’s called Miko Mini. You can see pictures of Miko and some of the other robots featured at CES 2023 in The Washington Post’s robot roundup.

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The team

Daniel Shin Daniel Shin
Jesus Alvarado Assistant Producer