Electric vehicles still haven’t plugged into the mainstream car consumer zeitgeist, according to a more nuanced reading of the latest trends coming from the automotive press.
Although you’ll likely see a lot of happy talk in the next week about how EV sales doubled in 2013, let’s be honest: the total sales of electric vehicles to date are something you can sneeze at. Overall US sales of EVs in 2013 amounted to 90,000 units, according to Scientific American.
Contrast that number with the overall US market size for cars, as reported by the International Business Times. That shows General Motors selling over 2.7 million vehicles, Ford over 2.4 million, Totoya over 2.2 million, and Chrysler over 1.8 million. And that’s just the top four car companies.
Americans will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to buy electric cars.
What it means is that if EV sales continue to double each year, we should expect their market share to be worth crowing about approximately when the sun begins to cool.
This news comes following a year that saw EV manufacturers Coda Automotive and Fisker Automotive filing for bankruptcy, while ECOtality, a charging station manufacturer, and Better Place, a battery supplier, also turned in their papers.
Adding to the EV woes: overall gasoline prices dropped, and some states started to worry that the revenue they derive from gasoline taxes is slipping. Right now, five states impose a fee on EVs to offset the lost gas revenue. More states are looking at imposing such a fee, as is the federal government.
Trying to goose the market, EV manufacturers last year turned to price drops to lure more consumers into the electric circus tent. But even with slashed prices, the biggest EV manufacturers are still moving just over 20,000 units.
Meanwhile oil production booms, as new extraction methods boost US energy independence.
REPORTS STILL OPTIMISTIC
Despite all this gloom and doom, there are still people out there thumping the tub for the electric vehicle.
The respected Navigant Research issued a report that claims more than 35 million electric vehicles will be in operation globally over the next decade. They cite high petroleum-based fuel costs, and government incentives to drive the market. Navigant claims the US will sell over 1.1 million EVs by 2022.
The fine print in the report, though, indicates that the government (ie you and me) will have to offer purchase incentives, gas prices will have to climb, battery pack costs will have to dive, and the economy has to pick up.
All of that is possible. But what it tells us is that people will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to buy the electric cars.
Still, the good news is that none of the huge auto manufacturers have tossed in the towel. In fact, Toyota is doubling down, announcing yesterday at the huge Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that its long-term EV strategy is focused on hydrogen fuel-cell cars. The company showed off ts fuel-cell electric vehicle prototype for the first time in North America, showcasing a range of 300 miles, refueling time of five minutes, and water vapor as its only emission.
California is the target market for the hydrogen vehicle, which starts production in 2015. The company promises to put 100 hydrogen fueling stations online by 2024.
One safe bet: Toyota’s fuel-cell cars were touted by an executive to be available in greater number than anyone expects. Given the slim enthusiasm to date for alternative fuel vehicles, it’s an easy bar to clear.