Electric Car Adoption Seen As Modest

Barring a significant paradigm shift, the global market for hybrid electric and battery electric vehicles (EVs) in the next decade will grow only modestly — from about 2.2 percent of passenger vehicles sold this year to 7.3 percent in 2020 — according to a new report from J.D. Power and Associates.

This big bucket of cold water on EVs, titled “Drive Green 2020: More Hope than Reality,” says the biggest barrier facing the electrics is cost. Despite some hesitation about power, performance and driving range, consumers love the idea of EVs for their fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness. But their interest in EVs “declines significantly when they learn of the price premium that comes with purchasing these vehicles,” the report said.

Nissan Leaf battery electric vehicle

image via Nissan

That leads directly into the three scenarios that J.D. Power points to as possible game-changers: a big jump in the price of oil; technological breakthroughs that would cut costs, improve EV range and trim charging time; and, lastly, coordinated government incentives aimed at consumers. “Based on currently available information, none of these scenarios are believed to be likely during the next 10 years,” the analysts said.

A caveat came with the report, however, in the form of China; “Given the size and growth rate of the Chinese auto market,” the analysts wrote, “a coordinated regulatory environment might allow Chinese companies to achieve economies of scale and drive down the cost of alternative-energy vehicles.”

Nissan, for one, isn’t buying the chilly J.D. Power outlook for EVs. In the Detroit Free Press, Carlos Tavares, executive vice president of Nissan in America, said Nissan expects EV sales to top 10 percent of the market in 2020. He told the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, “J.D. Power’s research cites a number of challenges. We disagree with every one of these points, and are quite a bit more bullish. We are basing this statement on our own market research.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.