As automakers try to plug into consumers' future needs, electric cars are stirring boardroom curiosity - but not a lot of sales.
Some car manufacturers are banking on a different story in the future, though.
Electric cars comprise less than 1 percent of U.S. auto sales, yet some major automakers are planning to manufacture many more electric models in the near future. According to an article on Bloomberg.com, General Motors plans to roll out 20 models by 2023 and Toyota 10 by early in the next decade. Researcher LMC Automotive predicts 75 electric models will be produced in the U.S. over the next five years.
"The 21st century will see the return of electric cars, as we are witnessing with Tesla, Porsche, GM, Ford, and others," says Ted Annis, manager and co-founder of Transducing Energy Devices, LLC "Environmental, economical and market factors will meet to make the electric car prominent in the American culture."
LMC forecasts gasoline-powered engines will still make up about 85 percent of U.S. new car sales in 2025, but that electric cars' market share will continue to accelerate. Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Electric Vehicle Outlook 2017 projects electric cars will comprise over 50 percent in sales of new light-duty vehicles by 2035.
Annis gives four advantages of an electric car that will increase its popularity:
- Fuel cost savings. Electric cars are entirely charged by the electricity you provide, meaning you don't need to buy any gas ever again. An average American spends $2,000 to $4,000 on gas each year. "From the gas standpoint alone, the electric car makes a lot of sense," Annis says. "Keeping these cars charged isn't free, but overall the electric car is far cheaper in operating costs."
- Environmentally-friendly. Cars and trucks are responsible for roughly 24 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution, according to Scientific American. With no emissions, electric cars are eco-friendly as they run on electrically powered engines. "The growing popularity of these cars is partly an outgrowth of our global environmental concerns," Annis says. "You'll be contributing to a green climate. And some manufacturers will offer incentives through the government for going green."
- Low maintenance. No more oil changes, spark-plug replacements, or the many repair possibilities associated with an internal combustion engine and transmission. The electric car motor has far fewer moving parts. Brakes on electric cars receive less wear and tear. "Expensive engine work is a thing of past," Annis says.
- Quiet. Engines of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles contribute to noise pollution, which is harmful to health. A study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) reported that nearly 100 million Americans had annual exposures to traffic noise that were high enough to be harmful. Electric vehicles are extremely quiet.
"The advantages are many," Annis says. "Technology tailored to a changing consumer base is steadily making improvements in electric cars, and in the next decade the roads will be filled with them."