Biases, s-curves, and memes

Confirmation bias is described as the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. For example, Rassie Erasmus, Director of SA Rugby, has the belief that referees are biased against the Springboks. After each match he singles out all the referee calls that negatively affected the Boks and posts a sarcastic rant on TikTok. A fair person would also make a list of all the calls that worked in the Boks’ favour, and by doing a logic analysis might come to another conclusion: that the ref is equally biased or that she simply makes a lot of mistakes – poor refereeing is different from bias. Rassie Erasmus’s confirmation bias has cost him and the Springboks: he has been disciplined and his players have come under unnecessary scrutiny.

At CHARGE, we hold strong beliefs: among others, that the EV revolution is unstoppable and that our business model will be successful. It is important that we avoid confirmation bias to avoid the negative consequences it might bring. We have to remind ourselves we’re not a cult: that there are other ways of doing things, and that other people have opinions too. Even valid ones sometimes.

Within the EV community there has been some hand-wringing and indignation at the oil industry for launching a campaign that is discrediting or undermining the EV transition … according to them. One meme, illegally reproduced below, got EV-loving greenies so hot under the collar, they promised to hit back with a revenge meme campaign of their own.

I think this cartoon is hilarious. It is well drawn and has a clever play on the master card pay-off line. But it is just a joke, and like all good jokes, it has some roots in the truth. It didn’t make me cross, quite the opposite: I sent it to a bunch of friends who think the EV charging business is a wild goose chase. It also made me think of Milton Friedman (Or was it Homer Simpson? I always get them mixed up.)  who said:

“You cannot be sure that you are right unless you understand the arguments against your views better than your opponents do.”

After spamming my friends, I did a bit of research. It is tough reading about ICE vehicles if you believe in an EV future. I understand why the oil and ICE industry is protecting its turf. They’re not keen on giving up a good business. There is a debate to be had about the total cost to the environment of ICE cars vs EVs. And it’s not a debate that will have a quick clear winner. No, this is not Prince Andrew debating his shenanigans with BBC’s Emily Maitliss.

There are many debates to be had about ICE vs EVs, but one must stick to facts. Saying EV uptake will never happen because “Americans like the smell of gasoline…” or “This is Africa …” are arguments based on emotion, not verifiable facts. George Herbert, a 16th-century poet who didn’t know an EV from an elephant, said “The best revenge is living well”.

EV transformation supporters will have to be a bit more thick-skinned and laugh along with the memes and trolls who mock us because we shall have our revenge sooner rather than later. I’m not saying that because of confirmation bias, or because my gut full of caviar tells me so. The data show that new EV sales have passed the 5% mark in 31 countries. (If you think 5% is not a lot – read my earlier blog on Exponential Growth.) The 31 is significant because these 31 countries account for 60% of all new cars sold. i.e. not just cute little rich countries such as Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and Stanford.

The life of a new product can be portrayed as an S-Curve:

s curve early adoption

In the above illustration EVs are at the Early Adoption stage (bottom left) and ICE vehicles are at the top indicated by the Plateau and Decline labels. This is where the 5% mentioned above is significant. It is at 5% (of sales/adoption) where the S-Curve begins its steep upward curve.

In the spirit of seeing the other side’s argument, it is necessary to remember that ‘significant’ has the same root as the word ‘sign’. We are seeing signs of EV uptake increasing rapidly. No facts yet, just signs, but signs backed up by facts, not tea leaves or bones. I promise to revisit these facts one year from now, and crow if the facts bear me out, or eat crow if it doesn’t.

Thank you for reading. If you liked it send a link to a friend. If you hated it let me know which part you hated or send an anti-EV meme to: [email protected]

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