SAE Blog Text

Meet the Authors: Chris Johnston and Ed Sobey

Posted: January 31, 2023

Two running buddies came together with a shared goal: encourage more people to purchase electric vehicles.

But how to achieve that goal?

For Chris Johnston and Ed Sobey, the road clearly pointed toward publishing an accessible, easy-to-understand resource that could reach industry and non-industry folks alike. That road led to SAE International and resulted in The Arrival of the Electric Car, which recently published in its second edition.  

“As we said in the book’s introduction, our goal was to be objective, nonpolitical and data-driven and just put the information out there,” Johnston said. “It’s all fact-based and designed to help people make an informed decision.”

Johnston, a self-proclaimed “lifelong gearhead” bought his first car at age 15 and has been working with and learning about cars ever since. His interest took him to Purdue University, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering, and that sparked his intrigue into electric vehicles some 20 years ago.

As it became clear that electric vehicles were hitting an inflection point where they would take off in the consumer vehicle market, Johnston recognized a need for reliable, fact-based information on these vehicles that wasn’t being filled by the resources readily available to the public. He sought input from Sobey, a science educator who had already published a few books of his own.

Together, they created the book’s first edition, keeping that average consumer demographic at the forefront of their efforts.

“We wanted to make the book fun, accessible, and readable,” Johnston said. “There were some earlier attempts to write books about electric vehicles, but they were written more for the engineering crowd. We wanted to write this for the average person who may or may not be technical.”

The pair discovered that there was an interesting story to tell. Electric vehicles date back over 100 years and were popular modes of transportation for approximately 25 years before the gas engine started to take over and evolved into the consumer vehicle market we see today.

Electric vehicles also have a history of being some of the fastest in the world, with the first vehicle of any kind to travel faster than 100 kilometers per hour being an EV.

Through their deep dive into the history of electric vehicles and the current market, it became clear to Johnston and Sobey that a lot of misconceptions and mystique surrounded the public understanding of electric vehicles. To help dispel this, they include a section on common myths around EVs and the facts that disprove them, including the driving range of EVs comparable to that of ICEs and the affordability of these vehicles.

“One of the things I think a lot of folks don’t realize is that electric vehicles are incredibly inexpensive to own,” Johnston said. “You never have to buy gas for them, you never have to get an oil change, and one of the things I think is really interesting is that the brakes—which in a normal car, you have to get the brakes serviced about every 40,000 miles and they’re expensive. EVs are getting anywhere from 170-200,000 miles on their brakes.”

Also included in the book is a buyer’s guide for readers to compare the available vehicles on the market. Between editions, the availability doubled, with more than 50 vehicles included in the newest edition. Sobey and Johnston don’t see that growth slowing down, either.

 “The consumer market sales projection for this year are about 1,000,000 units in the United States, which is up substantially from previous years and the choices are much larger and more diverse from what they have been. As that occurs, the price is tumbling down,” Sobey said. “So, there will be more and more cars accessible to a wider range of budgets. I think we’re at that explosive point in the market where things for the consumer are really about to take off…and the innovations and creativity that are showing up right now is really cool to see.”

Ready to learn more about the electric vehicle market? Get your copy of The Arrival of the Electric Car today.