Expect more electric cars in showrooms, but not because of Volvo, expert says

Automakers that are not investing in electric vehicle development are "going to lose,'" when it comes to sales, says Matthew Stevens, CEO of FleetCarma in Waterloo.

Automakers not investing in electric vehicle development are 'going to lose'

Chevrolet Volt vehicles are shown on the assembly line at the General Motors Hamtramck Assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich. Matthew Stevens, CEO of FleetCarma in Waterloo, says consumers should expect to see more hybrid and electric vehicles, not because of the Volvo announcement, but because that's where the industry is headed. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

Consumers looking for their next vehicle shouldn't be shocked when they see more electric and hybrid options in the showroom, one Waterloo clean tech expert says.

But it's not because Volvo announced earlier this week that all its cars will be electric or hybrids by 2019.

"Others will follow, but not because of Volvo," Matthew Stevens, CEO of FleetCarma, told CBC K-W's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris.

"I don't think Volvo doing that will pull others along. I think others are going to make the same statement, but because it's the right thing for their company."

Stevens said people need only look to the quickly improving quality technology going into electric and hybrid cars to understand this is the future — and automakers know it.

"When you stack an electric vehicle up versus a gas vehicle, it's fast, it's smoother, it's better drive quality, it's better to maintain, so when you stack all that up and you see that the technology's at a readiness level, you realize that electric vehicles are just a fundamentally better vehicle," he said.

Overwhelming move to electric

Sweden-based Volvo is the first major traditional automaker to charge ahead into electric vehicles with a deadline of just two years for the switch.

"This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car," Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson said during the announcement Wednesday.

Cara Clairman, president and CEO of Plug'n Drive, a non-profit electric vehicle advocacy organization, told CBC News it's now a case of when consumers will see electric vehicles, not if.

"[It's] not the death of the internal combustion engine but certainly we'll see an overwhelming move to electric vehicles over time and it's just a matter of how long that takes."
Matthew Stevens is the CEO of Fleetcarma in Waterloo.

'No concern about power'

The one area where concerns are consistently raised when it comes to electric vehicles — particularly in rural Ontario — is the viability of an electric pickup truck.

Stevens has heard the concerns, but said from what he's seen, that won't be an issue once the electric pickups hit the market.

"An electric pickup truck will beat any gas or diesel pickup truck off the line, hands down," he said.

"There's no concern about power," he added. "If you want to blow a [conventional] pickup truck in the dust, make a plug-in pickup truck."

Still, Ontarians seem hesitant to buy electric and hybrid vehicles, and automakers in turn aren't offering a wide variety of options.

Stevens said there's a belief out there that Ontarians don't want to buy electric vehicles, but he sees that changing — and quickly.

"If you're an automaker that hasn't designed or built the in-house engineering capacity to make a really phenomenal electric vehicle product, you're going to lose," he said.


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