If you can pick them out, whether on the highway, in the neighborhood, or at a charging station, electronic vehicles still get sideways glances and head shakes from a lot of other drivers. Gas-fueled automobiles are far and away more popular, but electronic vehicles, or EVs, are more frequently coming out of the shadows of their internal-combustion relatives.
A 2020 Consumer Reports survey revealed 71 percent of U.S. drivers say they would consider buying an EV at some point in the future, with nearly a third indicating interest in one for their next vehicle purchase. And, according to data provided by IHS Markit, in 2020, all-electric vehicle registrations share in the U.S. (plug-in hybrids were excluded from the report), reached a record market share of 1.8 percent, revealing, potentially, a substantial opportunity for EV sales.
It’s those kinds of numbers that caught the imagination of Mike Beanland, a Hillsborough resident since 2015. He was fixed on the huge gap between the number of EVs on the road and the number of people who would be willing to purchase one. He dug a little deeper and found that between 1 percent and 2 percent of used car sales in the U.S. are EVs.
“I think a lot of it comes down to lack of consumer knowledge,” Beanland said. “You have a lot of early adopters who are willing to go out and take a risk and get this new product. Then you have some people who are waiting to see if the batteries last, and how do people like it? ‘I’m afraid about the unknown. I don’t know about charging.’ There’s a lot of these unknowns out there.”
After further consideration and research, Beanland and a partner worked out a plan to both help people overcome some of those unknowns, and hopefully sell them a used EV. PureCar, a dealership dedicated to used EVs, was born and opened in Hillsborough.
“The business model and why we exist as a business is to help bridge that gap between that 1 percent of people willing to take the risk and that 70 percent who said, ‘You know, I want to improve the environment; I want to do what’s right.’ We want to bridge that gap,” Beanland said.
PureCar provides a free knowledge base through its website and social media posts. Whether it’s a question about how to set up a charging system in their home, or what kind of EV fits their lifestyle, Beanland said he wants to be the resource for people. And being local is key to that plan.
“That was very important to us,” he said. “There are a lot of national chains out there, CarMax, Carvana who are willing to drop off a car at your home. But that might not work for everyone. If you want specialized training, or if you want somebody to bring an electrician out and walk you through what you need at the house, simply dropping off a car won’t work. You’re going to be pretty frustrated with the overall ownership experience and the delivery experience. We want to be a beginning-to-end process. We want to get to know our customers. We want to develop a relationship, and be a beacon in the community, so when people think about EVs, they think of PureCar and know they’re going to get the right service.”
The company has a standalone location — an office and lot — at 960 Corporate Drive, Suite 402. Any vehicles will be kept there, but Beanland said the plan is to have potential clients browse the inventory on the PureCar website, and have the EV brought to the customer’s home.
“We will come to your home, do a test drive in a familiar environment for you. And then at that time, we’ll look at what potentially we could do in your home to set up a home-charging system for every customer,” Beanland said.
The company is still in its infancy, and the owners have been traveling to consider purchases to build its inventory. Beanland said Teslas are the EVs his company is putting most of its efforts into acquiring.
“We’ve met a lot of Tesla and EV owners, and the one thing that has stood out to me is that everybody who’s wanted to sell their Tesla, they’re getting an upgraded Tesla to replace it,” he said. “So right now we’re looking for Model 3s. It’s the most popular EV right now. So we’re looking to get a fleet of (Tesla) Model 3s. Every Model 3 owner we’ve talked to is upgrading, and they’re just waiting on delivery for their (Model) S, they’re Y, their upgraded Model 3. We haven’t met a person who would go back to a gas-powered car.”
Eventually, Beanland said, the plan is for PureCar to offer EVs that will fit any budget. Most car makers are manufacturing EVs, and vehicles other than Teslas — like the Nissan Leaf, Ford Mustang Mach-E, and Volkswagen ID.4 — could someday be available from PureCar.
But with the Teslas leading current EV sales, Beanland, who drives a Tesla Model 3, said he’s planning to stay focused on those. And those don’t come easy.
“So our key target is anything. We’re looking for less than four-years-old, and we’re looking for fewer than 50,000 miles. The reason is, Tesla has a full, comprehensive, bumper-to-bumper four-year, 50,000-mile warranty. Because we don’t have a service department right now, we want to sell a car that the warranty is going to transfer to you and if anything goes wrong, you don’t have to worry about it. That’s our target car right now.”
Beanland said one of the advantages he hopes people will see with his company is its expertise in EVs and what goes into the correct set up for charging stations. While many traditional car lots have EVs to sell, it’s not unusual for salespeople to be less informed about the EVs than they are their gas-powered inventory. This, Beanland said, can ruin the EV experience.
“If you walked into a traditional dealership right now, they would tell you to buy the car, it plugs into a wall you’ll be fine. ‘Just go home, plug it into the wall overnight. You’ll be fine,’” he said. “Our friends had this exact same experience. Luckily, they did some research beforehand and realized that the Chevy Bolt will plug into a normal wall outlet, which runs 120 volts, but for them, they drive a lot more than that will keep charged. What they needed was a 240-volt charger, which is the same kind your dryer would plug into. They had an electrician come out and set up a 240-volt charging system that met their needs. If they had trusted the dealership, they would have been fine the first day and then they would have woken up the second day with less of a charge. By the end of the week, they wouldn’t have been able to make it to work. Now if you bought a brand new EV and you couldn’t make it to work on Friday, you’d be pretty upset and that would ruin the ownership experience.”
Beanland said he’s excited about starting his business in “magical” Hillsborough, and has used some of the town’s more notable places as backdrops for car photos on the website. He said he hopes people will not only appreciate the difference they can make by purchasing used EVs to help reduce their carbon footprint, but also know they’re supporting a local company.
More information about PureCar can be found at www.purecarcarolinas.com, and on the company’s Facebook page.