Alan Shedd is in the market for a new electric vehicle, specifically a 2022 Kia EV6, preferably gray.
Instead of merely haggling with a local dealer and driving off the lot, he’s had to call dealers in other states, track down the seller of a barely used EV6 he noticed on a flatbed truck driving down the highway, and walk away empty handed when a Georgia dealer wanted $12,000 over the sticker price.
He’s still looking.
“I’m sort of at the point where it’s more than just window shopping,” said Shedd, who lives near Gainesville and owns a coastal home on the Sapelo River in Eulonia. “If I could find a good deal on the car I’m looking for I’d probably buy it tomorrow, but they are in short supply.”
Shedd’s experience is pretty standard lately in Georgia. The Peach State is instrumental in producing electric vehicles, with more than 10,000 people employed statewide in EV manufacturing in 2021, the highest in the Southeast, according the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. It’s also ranked second in EV manufacturing investment, with $7.7 billion spent on plants that make EVs or batteries. But both national and regional supply issues here can challenge the patience of the average car buyer.
All vehicles, along with most appliances, electronics and furniture are in short supply nationally, said Stan Cross, SACE policy director.
“All large ticket items are difficult to buy right now, as we deal with a global supply chain crisis that’s related to geopolitics, pandemic, and the rapid transition of various technologies,” Cross said. “When we think about automobiles, it’s difficult right now to buy any. Automobile selection is limited.”
That goes double for electric vehicles, which while more available than ever before, are also more in demand, too.
“Over the past couple of years, automakers have been ramping up the production of electric vehicles, and bringing more longer range desirable electric vehicles to market. So we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles available across all brands,” Cross said. “Along with that has come an increased awareness among consumers of the benefits of electric vehicles and the availability of electric vehicles.”
Cox Automotive reported that 33 models of EVs were available in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year, compared to 19 in the same quarter of last year. Most of those models are still eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit if bought new.
Georgia’s EV charging infrastructure is also getting a boost with $134 million to be made available to the state over the next five years under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
With all these advances, plus gasoline prices topping $5 a gallon, consumer interest in EVs is peaking.
“And this is reflected in recent data released by Consumer Reports that showed 36% of consumers are considering buying an EV, with 14% saying they’re definitely buying an EV for their next vehicle, and 22% saying they would seriously consider it,” Cross said. “That is a wow, for sure. Keep in mind that right now on average 5% of new car sales are electrics.”
Fewer EVs offered here
While demand is high and supply low nationwide, Georgia is not among the states where automakers have prioritized selling electric vehicles. Instead they're favoring California and the 13 states plus the District of Columbia, which have adopted California's "zero emission" standard: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
"That has resulted in less models being available in the Southeast," Cross said. "So it's very different when you go to a showroom in Georgia, versus going to a dealership showroom in what's known as a zero emission vehicle state, like California, or New York, or any of the other dozen."
Dealers in those states have years of experience, selling and servicing these EVs at a larger scale than than many dealers do in the Southeast, Cross said.
Here it can be difficult even to find a particular EV model to test drive. The vehicles arriving at dealerships are often ones ordered months before by a customer.
And when dealers do order EVs, some have been upping the sticker price significantly. A Hyundai dealer in Savannah adds $7,500 to the EV6 manufacturer's suggested retail price. Shedd was quoted a $12,000 "market adjustment" on the same model in the Atlanta area.
And it's not only the Kia EV6, which along with parent company Hyundai's Ioniq 5 are second only to Teslas in EV sales this year, that are getting marked up.
A friend of Shedd's test drove a Ford F-150 Lightning truck in South Carolina.
"He was told by the dealer that there would be a similar market adjustment, in spite of the fact that Ford's CEO said, 'Okay, dealers, you know, we don't want price gouging, you've got to, you've got to toe the line on this,'" Shedd said.
Inside EVs reported in May that Ford threatened to stop sending dealers F-150 Lightning inventory if they marked up the price, "but in the meantime, they're going to try to make bank."
What can a buyer do?
Shedd, who works as the director of emerging technology at Oglethorpe Power, goes way back with EVs.
"I've been messing around with electric vehicles since the 70s. I've worked with school groups, building electric vehicles in the classroom," he said. "As part of a research project in 2007, I worked with a group of engineers and in California to convert a conventional Toyota Prius into a plug-in hybrid." He drove that car 265,000 miles.
"I'm here to say that you know, electric transportation actually works," he said. "It's not something that's just come on the scene in the last few weeks."
Now he drives a silver Prius Prime, which is a plug-in hybrid that he went out-of-state to Virginia to buy in 2017.
While he'd like to replace that vehicle, he's not willing to pay above market price to do so.
"As much as I want to want the car, I'm just not willing to pay that much of a premium," Shedd said. "I can continue driving what I'm driving and kind of wait to see what happens."
Cross said he's seeing a significant increase in activity by auto dealers in Georgia, in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee. There's even a Tesla "gallery" in Savannah, though it typically has vehicles available for test drives only at the beginning of the quarter and ordering is still online.
"Up until this point, (automakers) have produced low volume, and prioritized those (zero emission) states, Cross said. "As they start to ramp up and deliver high volume, then we're gonna see wider availability across the country, regardless of whether or not you have adopted those stricter air quality standards.
Calling his own wait a "first world problem," Shedd, a member of the Facebook group "EV Club of the South" continues to advocate for electric vehicles.
"I remain a staunch EV advocate (EVangelist)," he wrote in Facebook messenger, "and think they represent a triple win of lower operating costs for owners, lower environmental impact, and better resource utilization."