NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Will Masses Embrace Electric Cars Despite High Prices?

November 9, 2010

The biggest automotive revolution since horseless carriages first rumbled along rutted roads is about to take place -- and you'll have to strain to hear it, says USA Today.

Automakers such as Nissan and Chevrolet are touting the new vehicles in splashy ads, but already there are signs that wary mainstream consumers won't be quick to embrace the largely untested electric models.  Automakers likely will have no trouble selling out their initial, limited production to electric enthusiasts and early adopters who have to have the latest thing, but mass acceptance that would lead to profitable production in big numbers remains a question.

  • The government and the auto industry are promoting electric transportation as a way to cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil, ease the need for more U.S. oil drilling and cut carbon dioxide in the air.
  • Buyers still have to be convinced that being Earth-friendly is worth several trade-offs -- beyond the cars' sticker prices, which can be double the cost of a similarly sized conventional car.
  • Most prominently, most electric cars for now will have a range of about 100 miles before they need to be recharged.
  • That process can take as few as 30 minutes with special chargers, but in most situations will take up to eight hours.

President Obama has set a goal of a million plug-in electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015, though that rollout pales compared with the more than 11 million conventional vehicles that will be sold this year alone, says USA Today.

  • Even with all the subsidies, promotion and consumer education efforts, only 0.6 percent of cars sold in the United States in 2020 will be fully electric, predicts auto researcher J.D. Power and Associates.
  • And only 9.6 percent will be hybrids -- with or without a plug-in recharging cord.

Source: Chris Woodyard, "Will Masses Embrace Electric Cars Despite High Prices?" USA Today, November 8, 2010.

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