Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

The spark has gone out of EV sales, but auto makers are making a committed effort to bring back the sizzle (REUTERS)
The spark has gone out of EV sales, but auto makers are making a committed effort to bring back the sizzle (REUTERS)

Cover Story

Will car buyers ever plug in to electric vehicles? Add to ...

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the Obama administration set a goal of getting one million electric or plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015 and has been supporting that initiative with taxpayer funding. Consumers, however, have not been stampeding to dealer showrooms to buy EVs – at least not yet, though optimists abound.

As The Journal notes, through the first nine months of 2012, “Nissan Motor Co. has sold just 9,674 Leaf electric cars, and General Motors Co. has sold 7,671 rechargeable Volt compacts” – a tiny fraction of the total market of 12.8-million light vehicles sold in the U.S. EV sales in Canada number not in the thousands but in the hundreds so far this year.

Will buyers ever get charged up in big numbers about EVs and at least plug-ins? Maybe, but the challenges are huge and not just because the world is awash in oil and the cost of buying any electrified vehicle – particularly a pure EV – is too high to be palatable for most buyers, even with taxpayer subsidies factored into the equation. Aside from cost, the appeal of battery cars is hindered by range that at best limits EVs to 150 km or less on a single charge.

And the typical 110-volt recharge of a full EV is eight hours, while those with access to a 220/240-volt outlet can get a full charge in 2-1/2 hours or so. Quick-charge systems can cut that time to 20 minutes or so, but fast-charge stations are expensive and rare. Charging stations, period, represent an as-yet-unsolved problem for EVs.

Ghosn, the world’s biggest backer of EVs, says the lack of a charging infrastructure in the United States is the main reason why Nissan will not meet its sales target for the Leaf this year. In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Ghosn said, “Nissan will not sell 20,000 Leafs this year in the U.S.

“We’re trying to convince more cities and states to invest in this infrastructure,” he said. “We recognize the fact that the increase of sales is taking more time than we thought at the beginning.”

All that oil isn’t helping matters, either.

 

What can hybrids do for the planet?

 

Toyota, which has sold more than 4.6 million gasoline-electric hybrids around the world since 1997, says that by the end of October of this year, its hybrid vehicles have cut CO emissions by about 30 million tonnes worldwide – compared to emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles of similar size and driving performance.

 

There’s more. Toyota says its hybrid vehicles have saved approximately 11 million litres of gasoline worldwide based on calculations for what fuel would have been used by purely gasoline-powered vehicles of similar size.

Single page

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories