The "gotta have it" just isn't there for electric vehicles.
It's a mistake to think the adoption rates of EVs will approach
anything like what we've seen with consumers electronics products in
the last 20 years. Many of those technologies (VCRs, telephone
answering machines, video cameras to name a few) had metoric
adoption rises for cost and convenience reasons.
CEO George Colony's quote:
“If you look at the history of technology, there is a
threshold where one day, you had to have something. You had to
have a fax machine. Remember that day? It was 1981 or something.
You had to have a fax machine on that day. The day before, day
before, you didn’t need it."
EVs have an existing infrastructure (roads, grid), and the user
experience is essentially identical to what the consumer is used to,
so the adoption rates should be red hot. But you don't have to have
it. Thirty years ago we spent a lot of money for one of the first
IBM PCs (or Apple computers) because we felt we needed it. More
people would pay the EV premium today if we felt we had to have it.
So faster adoption will come with radically reduced pricing (Nissan
the price on its all-EV Leaf), and, as you know,
that's not happening overnight because of battery chemistry and
economics. There will be no hockey-sticking of EV sales.
In fact, I'd bet that technologies such as ride-sharing apps and
services will be much more disruptive to driving and car-buying
habits in the next few years than EVs.
That's why we'll be writing the same headline next year.
Don't forget the battery. It has to be replaced at about 100K miles. Today's gasoline cars get much more than 100K miles before they need anything major. What does it cost to replace the battery in an electric car? Probably more than an engine overhaul. As soon as the cost per mile is less than a gasoline car, they will take over. Until then, it is only for the early adopters and rich geeks.
Irrespective of anti-polluting virtue or lack thereof, the fundamental problems with battery electrics continue to be lack of range and ridiculous refueling times. It's like you're hit with the worst of both worlds. And battery improvements are never more than incremental, so far.
In 2011 only 20% of energy consumed in the US came from coal (http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/perspectives.cfm). Beyond that, it is easy enough to redistribute how electricity is generated, so in 10 years electricity may be 20% or more from renewable sources. Electric cars can't tell/don't care how it was generated.
However ICEs can only use a handful of different fuels and none of them are all that great for the environment.
I am sorry, driving an electric vehicle that plugs into a mainly coal fired electric grid is not helping the environment. Especially when you have to pay up for the privelige of polluting more while you feel virtuous driving without gasoline.
Just my opinion.
I agree with you, Brian. It is very difficult for people to embrace a product to replace something they already have, when the new one is way more compromised than the old. The new one has to be better. Range anxiety is a big deal, when you didn't have any concerns on this before.
Electric powertrains are a super idea. Now, if only people could stop thinking that the battery is the only possible energy source. It becomes almost an indication of lack of imagination. Get beyond this battery myopia and electric cars might actually succeed.
For something as large as the new vehicle market, I think 3.3% is actually pretty impressive - especially given that electric vehicles ARE more expensive.
I am not sure if I buy your argument. It took probably 30 years for fuel injection to go from extreme novelty to ubiquitous. This is a change larger than that, so to declare the electric vehicle dead after the Nissan Leaf has been on the market maybe 2 years seems a bit premature.
I think an electric only (not EV plugin hybrid) vehicle could be very successful if done right. As Brian says, first it needs to be cheaper. The way to make it cheaper is to make it simpler and lighter. It needs to be a clean sheet design for electric - not a gas model that is adapted to electric as an after thought. I have three vehicles at home for family use. At least one of those vehicles could easily be electric. My son drives less than 15 miles a day round trip to school and back. I drive less than 15 miles round trip to work and back. I live in an an area with moderate climate. If an electric car was cheaper to buy and operate than the gas powered equivalent, I would buy one. And I think many others would too. And I think that the technology to make that vehicle exisists today. I don't need 100 mile range. I don't even need a 50 mile range, so I have very little "range anxiety". If some major manufacturer would make a relatively small, light, inexpensive, but durable, safe, and reliable electric vehicle, it would sell - almost irregardless of it's range.