A committee appointed by the National Research Council to identify the barriers slowing wider use of electric vehicles will hold its first meeting this week in Washington, D.C.
And when it does, University of Montana Regents Professor Jakki Mohr will have a seat at the table, applying her expertise in the commercialization of new technologies to address America’s slow shift away from fossil fuels.
“The task force is charged with looking at some of the issues posing barriers to the deployment of electric vehicles in the U.S.,” said Mohr. “Until we can understand how to wean ourselves from fossil-fuel dependency, we’re not going to solve a lot of the challenges we’re facing.”
Electric and hybrid vehicles have been available to consumers for years, including the Toyota Prius, the Chevy Volt, Ford Focus and Nissan Leaf. But despite the availability of such vehicles, most of the U.S. transportation system is still based on gasoline-burning engines.
The National Academies of Science Committee on Overcoming Barriers to Electric Vehicle Deployment, as it’s known, will scrutinize ways of introducing more electric cars and hybrids into the market.
Addressing the innovation ecosystem, as Mohr calls it, will help determine how electric and hybrid vehicles can find greater traction in the U.S. transportation system.
“It’s not just the cars or the batteries – it’s the things around them from a consumer adoption standpoint,” Mohr said. “It’s looking at the oil and gas companies, the dealer repair companies, the mom-and-pop shops and the power companies. Until you get all those perspectives on the table, you don’t understand what all the barriers might be.”
Wider consumer use of electric vehicles is partially limited by the cost of the cars and their limited by range. But Mohr said there are new business models already in practice that could address some of the issues.
As apposed to purchasing electric cars outright, one company – Better Place – envisions a day when consumers pay for usage of the car based upon their electrical needs, not unlike cellphone usage based upon the features of a particular plan.
“There are some companies experimenting with other ways to deploy electric vehicles,” Mohr said. “Thinking outside the box is another thing the non-engineering types on the committee will look at.”
Mohr purchased a new Chevy Volt last week to gain better insight, as a consumer, on electrical and hybrid vehicles.
She also has authored a book, “Marketing of High-Technology Products and Innovations,” and worked for Hewlett Packard before arriving to teach at UM.
She was contacted by the National Research Council in July about the joining the panel. The first meeting takes place on Sunday and Monday.
“I really believe we can’t understand what the user experience is like until we put themselves in their shoes,” said Mohr. “I’m excited about living this experience.”
Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260 or at email@example.com.