Electric Cars: More Models, Cheaper Prices Coming in 2013

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Cameron Spencer / Getty Images for Nissan

Detail of the charging point of the Nissan Leaf is displayed at the 'A World Without Petrol' art exhibition at Customs House on May 17, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.

The electric car has already gone through so much—from being pumped up as a game changer to all but being declared a flop—that it’s easy to forget the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have only been widely available to the public since 2011.

Even as sales for these two plug-in pioneers have fallen well short of projections, automakers aren’t giving up on electric cars. What’s more, as more new-model EVs hit the market, the entire segment should have more appeal for drivers. Reporting from the Los Angeles Auto Show a couple of weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times noted:

Don’t be surprised to see a decline in electric car prices over the next several months.

Prices drops are the expected result of increased competition from the likes of the Chevy Spark EV and the Fiat 500e, both newly introduced subcompact electric cars that generated plenty of attention (from the Wall Street Journal, for one) at the auto show. The electric version of the Spark should retail for around $25,000 next summer (in California and Oregon) after rebates are factored in, making it among the cheapest EV options on the market. More EV batteries are also being produced, which should bring down their cost and also improve the number of miles drivers can eke out per charge.

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So in the near future, there will be more electric cars on the market, and they’ll be more affordable and practical. But will that be enough? Will the tweaks help push EVs beyond their niche status and give them true mass market appeal? While we’ll have to wait and see, by most indications, it’s going to be a long time before electric cars attract a broad swath of consumers.

Drivers who love their plug-in vehicles really love them. According to Consumer Reports, the all-electric Nissan Leaf is among the top scorers in the most recent study for owner satisfaction, and the automobile with the highest overall score is none other than the Chevy Volt. As Automotive News described it:

The Volt has developed a cultish following. Hundreds of online forums have popped up with posts from Volt owners boasting of traveling thousands of miles between fill ups or squeezing out more than 40 miles on one electric charge.

However, the fact that there is tons of enthusiasm for Volt and other EVs in small circles does not mean that electric cars will be loved, or even considered, by the average driver. In fact, there’s evidence that electric car owners are a very special breed, according to a USA Today story:

A separated compilation of Internet responses by 990 electric-vehicle owners and enthusiasts by the Electric Vehicle Information Exchange, part of a consulting group called Oceanus Automotive, also found them to be different from most motorists. EV owners and fans were primarily “very well educated, upper-middle class white men in their early 50s with ideal living situations for EV charging,” usually garages where they can recharge their cars overnight, said the group’s report.

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The near requirement of owning a garage, it just so happens, is one of five issues named in a Detroit Free Press article about what’s holding EVs back in the marketplace. Plug-ins are often presented as ideal cars for people who live in cities, and yet few apartment dwellers have access to a garage, making it difficult to own an electric car. The story didn’t even bother to include the two much larger issues slowing EV adoption—high initial price and limited driving range—perhaps because they’re so obvious.

Beyond folks who live in apartments, families represent another group that’s bound to find EVs impractical for quite some time. “I don’t think you will see bigger people-carrier EVs,” Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, told the Los Angeles Times. The bigger and heavier the vehicle, the bigger and pricier the battery must be, and the more limited the driving range will be. That math doesn’t work out for families that need one vehicle for five or more people. “It’s just a harder sell. Who wants to be stranded with your family [because the battery drained down] and pay a lot of money to do it?”

7 comments
DavidDunn
DavidDunn

Renault's Zeo has a range of 95 miles and can be fully charged within 30 to 60 minutes. Chevy Spark isn't even close to that.

Taiping
Taiping

With all the nonsensical denunciations and attacks on electric cars, I can't help but think that somebody is getting paid to attack them. We drive a Leaf  and we have a gas powered car too. The Leaf is great for going to work, going to the store, going to church, going out to eat, going to a friend's house. In other words, nearly everything we do. It doesn't pollute the air, we can charge it from solar panels both at our work and at home (120v or 240v), and it's fun.  If we need to go farther afield we take the other car. It's not complicated. It's not an inconvenience. Arguments against even electric cars are really over the top ridiculous.

brenro12
brenro12

More models, cheaper prices, and still no buyers.

PaulScott
PaulScott

Electric drive is the end game of personal transportation. If you go 50 years into the future, any thinking person knows that internal combustion with all its inherent problems of pollution, global security and economic dislocation, will not be affordable. So, the question is how long will it take before we hit the inflection point when the masses of consumers make the switch.

As this story makes clear, those who are driving on electricity are enthusiastic about the technology, much more so than the typical driver. There is a reason for this. Electric drive is vastly superior to the old, clunky, noisy, smelly technology if internal combustion. Once you experience the quiet, smooth, powerful acceleration of a well built EV, you quickly understand why it's better. When you stop going to filthy gas stations and quit giving large sums of money to the evil people who run the oil companies, your life gets better. When you drive without causing harm to others, you feel less guilty about driving.

These are but some of the reasons EVs will take over. 

mtngoatjoe
mtngoatjoe

EVs will get there eventually, but the hurdles are big. I would love to have a Leaf to drive my 40 mile round trip commute, but I live in a condo and we don't have garages.

Someday I'll free myself of carbon fuel, but it won't be any time soon.

DavRi
DavRi

@Taiping  HMMM,  If you had a Volt or a prius, ONE car would do the job.  ONE payment, ONE insurance, ONE parking space, etc, etc.