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Are Electric Vehicles Ready for Mainstream?


Environment-Today--The-pi-006Perhaps a better question is, “Are mainstream drivers ready for electric vehicles?”

If we look at the history of hybrid electric vehicles, maybe we can get a clue as to how future reactions to pure electric vehicles will turn out. In the beginning, there was only the dinosaur, that is, conventional gasoline and diesel fuel burning vehicles. A couple of automakers had tried electric vehicles, one-offs like the General Motors EV1, which proved to be immensely popular with a small group of people.

Keeping profitability in mind, though, it just wasn’t worth the effort to develop electric vehicles. Perhaps a combination of technologies was in order. Actually, just a year after the GM EV1 was built, the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight hybrid electric vehicles hit the market. Toyota and Honda had something that General Motors didn’t, they were set on making these vehicles a success, not simply a CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) or CARB (California Air Resources Board) stunt.

These first hybrid electric vehicles were first seen as only appealing to the green crowd, and there were plenty. Thanks to continual improvements in fuel economy and power output, the Toyota Prius is actually the third-best-selling family car in the world. Note, I didn’t say hybrid car, but family car, which goes to show that the Toyota Prius’ appeal reaches much farther than just the green crowd.

Electric vehicles started out pretty much the same way a few years ago, more skepticism than anything, but recent successes, such as the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf, have shown that even these vehicles have more widespread appeal than just the green crowd. True, they’re more expensive than conventional vehicles, but prices are dropping all the time. Add continuing (for now) federal and state tax incentives and rebates, and you have the recipe for a mainstream electric vehicle market. Perhaps the only thing left is to roll out more fast-charging stations.

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