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Wharton Startup ZEV Set to Facilitate Electric Vehicle Sales

By Gabe Elsner, Chief Executive Officer of ZEV

In a world facing climate change, how can we increase electric vehicle (EV) sales? Introducing ZEV’s software solution for automakers and dealerships

I am launching ZEV to help dealerships and automakers sell more electric vehicles by providing consumers with technical information and specific advice on purchasing an electric vehicle for the first time.

We must rapidly transition our electricity grid and transportation sector to sustainable forms of energy to address climate change. For the first time since 1979, U.S. transportation emissions accounted for more carbon emissions than power plants in 2016. This can be explained, in part, by the rapid adoption of natural gas and renewable energy in the electricity sector as independent power producers and utilities installed cheap gas, wind, and solar. The transportation sector simply has not seen the same market adoption rates for climate solutions as the electricity sector despite groundbreaking innovations and cost reductions in electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle technology.

The good news is that the EV market is starting to grow rapidly worldwide. Automakers, like GM, Ford, Volvo, Volkswagen, and BMW, are investing billions of dollars in electric vehicle technology and new models. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects EV sales will account for 40% of vehicle sales by 2030 as battery costs plummet. The cost of a lithium ion battery systems in electric vehicles has already decreased 73% since 2010 from $1000 per kWh to $273 per kWh in 2016. Battery costs are projected to drop even further to $74 per kWh in 2030.

Source: McKinsey & Company, “Electrifying Insights: How automakers can drive electrified vehicle sales and profitability.” January 2017

But, sales of electric vehicles accounted for only about 1% of U.S. vehicle sales in 2017. And, automakers and dealerships are feeling pressure to increase sales of electric vehicles because of two things: competition from Tesla and Chinese automakers; and state-level EV sales mandates. In 10 states, representing about 1/3rd of the U.S. auto market, automakers must rapidly increase sales of EVs to meet requirements. Depending on the state, these mandates require 25–80% compound annual growth rate in EV sales through 2025.

So, how do automakers increase EV sales from 1% to 40% in the next decade? What is holding back consumer adoption in the United States? Obviously, there is more than one answer. But, put simply, electric vehicles face the same adoption chasm as other new technologies.

The vast majority of consumers are buying an electric car for the first time, and have questions and concerns when adopting this brand new technology. Consumers are looking for objective, trustworthy information to answer their questions about total cost of ownership, range capabilities, and the accessibility of charging infrastructure.

But, many dealerships simply lack the technical resources and EV-specific information customers are looking for. A recent mystery shopping study from Ipsos found that dealerships are “steering customers away from EVs and toward mainstream models the showroom staffers feel more comfortable selling.” Ipsos mystery shoppers visited 141 dealerships in the 10 largest electric vehicle markets in the United States. The study found dealerships tried to switch consumers away from ther interest in electric vehicles and many were not offered test drives, a key differentiator that highlight EVs’ performance benefits.

We sought to solve the dealers’ EV sales problem by launching ZEV. We are the electric vehicle authority for dealerships — and our software puts the information dealerships need to provide world-class customer service at their fingertips. Our advisory software platform provides tools and advice to help customers understand EV range, charging, cost of ownership, tax breaks, and more.

Did you know you can save $650 per year on fuel alone by buying a BMW 5 series plug-in hybrid electric instead of a BMW 5 series gasoline car? Many car buyers did not know this information before purchasing their cars — that’s the problem that we are trying to solve.

ZEV’s Software Solution for automakers and dealerships

We provide this Software-as-a-Service solution to automakers and dealerships, helping them sell more electric cars. By providing answers to the questions and concerns from EV buyers, we also reduce the time that dealers and their sales staff spend on training and education to learn the specific, technical information about electric cars. We recently launched our beta with our first dealer-partners and are working with initial customers to improve the product in preparation for a larger minimum viable product launch later this year.

ZEV helps dealerships and automakers sell more electric vehicles by providing their customers specific information and technical advice on electric vehicles.