What is the future of electric cars? It doesn’t take a genius to notice that car buyers are flocking to big, thirsty trucks and SUVs as gas prices continue to plummet. Most car makers are adding more shifts at their factories to crank out more of these high profit vehicles. A recent article in the Detroit News suggested that buyers really aren’t interested in cars with plugs.
It is interesting that Chrysler has gone to extraordinary lengths to not mention that its new Pacifica Hybrid has a plug. “The regulators are what are driving electric car production,” says Karl Brauer, an industry analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “It’s not because consumers are demanding them.” We addressed this issue recently as well.
Speaking to reporters at the Detroit auto show, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn agreed that governments are leading the way to low and zero emissions vehicles right now, but he believes consumers will get on board once the charging infrastructure is more mature and there are more electric cars on the road. “I think electrification is not a question of ‘I want it or don’t want it.’ Electrification is happening,” said Ghosn. “We are obviously precipitating it. We are accelerating it, because we believe in it. We can’t just say there is a risk behind electrification – the risk is not to partner or not to participate, or to contribute, or to understand. The trend is coming,” reports Charged EVs.
Ghosn acknowledges that customers are risk adverse, especially when it comes to new technology. But he points to how the public learned to embrace diesel powered cars after European governments put policies in place that favored them because of their superior fuel economy. “For example, let’s take the case of diesel in Europe [which] has grown a lot for many years — it represents more than 50% of the market. I don’t think that was because there was a market demand for diesel.
“In fact the regulators and the governments put so much incentive behind diesel that it ended up being 50% of the market. You can’t say it was consumer-driven. It was generated by…good direction provided by different European governments.” He does not dwell on the fact that, in the light of history, those policies were disastrously wrong headed.
Consumers are still skeptical about EVs, says Ghosn, due to the high cost of electric vehicles compared to conventional cars and the scarcity of electric chargers. But “when you start to see the infrastructure put in place, the range of electric cars going up, the cost of electric cars going down, I can bet that you’re going to see a major shift towards electric cars.”