Point of View: Scooters, EVs, Charging, and Just What Business Are We In?


Point of View: Scooters, EVs, Charging, and Just What Business Are We In?

April, 2023

I was reading in the parking media about scooter parking and the use of scooters (Bird, Lime, etc). As you know, I live at ground zero in scooter usage, the west side of Los Angeles.

I admit that I have seen a growth in scooter usage during the past few months, up from seeing one a week, to maybe one every other day. Frankly, I don’t see this as a world class increase, but promoters will see it as a 350 percent increase.

The article to which I refer was written by two higher ed parking managers and a marketing manager from Lime. Let’s face it, higher ed is the location of scooter usage. Young people are the natural riders and colleges are filled with them. And I salute them.

Now, what about EV sales?

The numbers can be confusing. I googled “Percentage of ICE vs EV Sales” and found that EV sales are up a whopping 30 percent.  However, when I drilled down into the numbers, I find that the vast majority of those sales are in Europe and China, while the sales in the U.S. are up to 4 percent. Now, granted, that’s a 100 percent increase over 2 percent last year, but still…

The problem is that the EV media is reluctant to actually tell you the whole story. The majority of EVs sold are hybrids, like the Prius, frankly because they don’t rely on an infrastructure that has a dearth of chargers and cause no so called ‘range anxiety.’

So, what is the point of all this? True, electric vehicles work in small countries (like Norway and Iceland) and in Europe where distances are short. They also work in China where the government can mandate sales. However, in huge countries like the U.S., Canada, and Australia, it’s a different story. There are also cultural differences. Work that out for yourself.

Are we going to see an upsurge in scooter usage? I doubt it. Are we going to see sales skyrocket on EVs in the U.S.? No, but look for a slow and steady increase. I can’t predict when we will see 10 or 20 percent of sales in the U.S. as EVs, but if I were to bet, I would put my money on later rather than sooner.

As I watched the EV ads during the Super Bowl, I was struck by the fact that it looked like they were selling ICE vehicles with a different type of engine. I didn’t get the feel that they were selling cars, or trying to sell cars, that were different, with different feature and benefits for the owners. If the EV offers only great acceleration and the rest is downside (price, range, long-term costs such as battery replacement, and charging times), not to mention infrastructure issues, why buy them? 

And when the commercial for Jeep shows a charging station located in the boonies at the edge of a canyon, who are they trying to kid? Or maybe there was a more subtle message involved.

If you are forced to buy and EV because the government tells you to do so, is that a good thing? You know the answer.

Are Charging Stations going to Kill the EV Movement?

Astrid nailed it with a post over at Parknews.biz. The headline is above.

It’s a video by Marques Brownlee that features his experience helping someone trying to charge their Tesla at a non-Tesla charging station. Its theme is that charging stations are difficult to use, and when you can figure out how to use them, they often simply don’t work.

Brownlee is an early adapter of an electric vehicle and is very favorably inclined towards them. However, he is concerned that the entire EV movement may be sabotaged by a less than stellar charging experience. The video depicts a woman driving a borrowed Tesla, attempting to charge it at a shopping mall. She asks Brownlee for help because he is also driving a Tesla. The story evolves from there. The unsaid theme is that if she was driving an ICE vehicle, she would have driven into a gas station, filled up the car, and driven out. Borrowed car or not.

His advice, hidden in the video, is that if you are considering installing EV charging stations, be sure they work, be sure they are easy to use, and be sure you provide the proper maintenance to keep them working. You would hate to have the reputation of your garage besmirched by a shoddy charging event.

What’s our business?

When Lee Iacocca said “I’m in the car business,” he was focused like a laser beam on his core business and on saving Chrysler from extinction. He wasn’t in the airplane business, the motorcycle business, or the business of building buses or trains, he was in the car business. And he saved Chrysler by featuring winning vehicles. Remember the mini-vans and the “K” car?

Those of you who own and run garages, surface lots, parking on street, off airport operations, and the parking facilities that support hospitals, hotels, sports complexes, shopping centers and the like, are in the parking business. You park cars, and in most cases, collect a fee from each driver for the privilege of storing his or her vehicle in your facility for a certain period of time.

I wonder if we don’t dilute our focus on parking with concerns about turning our facilities into charging stations, dealing with micro mobility, a discussion on trains, buses, and other types of mass transit, and a focus on technology and ‘smart’ phones and cities. Don’t get me wrong, these are important, but are we letting them enter into our discussion and forgetting that we are in the business of parking cars?

Do we forget who our customers are? You know, those people who drive into our facilities and park their cars and give us money. We seem to spend our time discussing how to provide electrons for less than 10 percent of the vehicles that enter, often at the expense of the other 90 percent. Do we enter into discussions as to how to make parking easier for our customers or do we talk about ways to remove staff from the garages and inundate our customers with technology to make our lives easier?

I had dinner with a friend in the business the other day and the discussion got around to some technology he was promoting that ran on a smart phone and took cash transactions out of the garage. Not once in his half our pitch did he mention the customer and how this would affect them. Now, I had no idea how it should affect them, or if it did, but I thought that maybe it should enter into the conversation.

Say what you want about Lee Iacocca, but he knew what business paid his bills. And he succeeded by focusing on that business. Can we say the same thing about our business? Or are we jumping on the next bandwagon that rolls by? I wonder.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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