NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Drivers Slow to Embrace All-Electric Vehicles

July 17, 2012

President Barack Obama set a goal of getting 1 million plug-in hybrids and all-electrics on U.S. roads by 2015. The administration pumped billions of dollars in loans and grants into battery technology companies, but now, some of the recipients are sitting on more capacity than the market wants, says USA Today.

Though technology advances have allowed for marketization of several electric vehicles, popular demand remains lacking.

  • Sales of the all-electric Nissan Leaf, which can travel about 75 miles on a single overnight charge, plummeted 69 percent in June from a year earlier.
  • Though sales have upticked recently, the Chevrolet Volt has also not found popularity on the market.
  • This is in stark contrast to sales of traditional hybrid cars: sales of various models of Toyota Prius hybrids are selling as fast as the automaker can ship them.

The lackluster performance of these plug-in vehicles is such that Pike Research of Boulder, Colorado, has concluded that the president's 2015 goal will almost certainly not be reached, and that even a 2018 horizon would be a stretch.

Sales of the vehicles have been undermined by a number of factors.

  • Falling gasoline prices, which nationwide are now well-below $4 per gallon, have weakened a crucial incentive for the purchase of non-gasoline consuming vehicles.
  • Many other potential buyers are also concerned about adapting their driving habits to all-electric vehicles: unlike the Volt, which has a backup gasoline engine, the Nissan Leaf is all electric and is confined to its 75 mile radius before needing to be recharged.
  • Finally, increasing efficiency for standard vehicles in the entire market has further destabilized electric vehicles' comparative advantage.

Source: Nathan Bomey, "U.S. Drivers Slow to Embrace All-Electric Vehicles," USA Today, July 9, 2012.

For text:


Browse more articles on Environment Issues