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A New Current: Electric Vehicles and the Driver Experience

Elon Musk just jump-started Motown.

Speaking at an industry event ahead of the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Musk, the visionary and passionate co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, boldly declared that Tesla plans to put millions of its electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2025.

And then, just like that, he urged the Big Three to step up their own EV production game.

“It’s important for leaders of the three carmakers to accelerate their investment in electric cars in a serious way,” he said. “I’m not talking about the minimum number of cars for compliance.”

While on the surface it may seem odd for a company to encourage its competition, Musk welcomes the rivalry. “Tesla wants GM and the others to be successful with their new electric car models, because the more success they achieve,” writes author Don Peppers, “the more credibility and infrastructure support will be gained for the entire electric car category, which will almost certainly benefit Tesla even more than the other companies.”

“If they’re smart,” continues Peppers, “companies like GM and Toyota will copy not just Tesla’s electric technology, but also the luxurious and completely frictionless user experience that makes the Tesla such a joy to operate in the first place.”

While it depends on where you live, today, for the most part, you don’t see too many electric cars on the road. However, if consumers are ready to truly embrace plug-in hybrids and electric cars (and the associated federal tax credit for buying one), the playing field is about to get a lot more exciting.

EVs are already getting updated. Take, for example, the second-generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt. GM is updating their plug-in hybrid with better fuel efficiency, tech upgrades, and more interior space than it’s first-generation predecessor. But all eyes are on the Chevrolet Bolt – yes, there is a Volt and a Bolt – GM’s all-electric concept car unveiled this week at the NAIAS. With a purported range of 200 miles per charge and a price of around $30,000 after tax rebates, the Bolt just might be the Motown competition Musk is looking for.

Even as car manufacturers beyond Detroit – including luxury automakers like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz – continue to embrace sustainable driving through the implementation of incremental EV innovations, just being electric won’t be a stand-out differentiator. Nor will it be a benchmark for success. Instead, success will be measured on a different scale: the driver experience. With seamlessly integrated smart technologies, increased efficiency, state-of-the-art design, and modern safety enhancements, car manufacturers will need to electrify drivers as much as they will need to electrify cars.

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