Five reasons for disappointing EV sales in U.S.

volt-on-lotNot everyone is going to agree, but we think it’s fair to say about a year and a half into the sale of mass produced plug-in vehicles in the United States that the number of EVs sold – a little under 30,000 – is disappointing.

We offer five reasons why American EV sales have, so far at least, been a disappointment.

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1. Too few greenies, too few techies, and too few get off (foreign) oil folks. It’s a sad fact of life that, as a whole, Americans don’t seem to care much about the environment (look to virtually any major poll on issues that matter most to Americans and you won’t see a single environmental issue on the list). In fact, true greenies probably comprise no more than five percent of the American population. There are definitely more techies than greenies in the U.S., but they, too, don’t comprise a significant portion of the U.S. population – how many people do you know who subscribe to Popular Mechanics, or who can wax poetic about doing their own EV conversion? Finally, rather surprisingly, there doesn’t appear to be all that many Americans for whom getting off of oil – and we mean really getting of oil completely – is enough of a priority that they’re willing to move from gasoline to electric vehicles.

2. Range and cost. You can argue forever about how the average American doesn’t drive more than 40 miles per day, but the simple fact of the matter is that, at 70 to 100 miles, pure EVs don’t deliver enough range. Most people want to be able to drive their car anywhere, anytime, for any distance – even if they never actually do it. And, to be fair, a good chunk of the 40 mile per day folks need to be able to drive 200 or 300 miles every now and then. That leads us to plug-in hybrids, such as the Chevy Volt. The Volt will get you anywhere you want and still let you drive electric 95 percent of the time. But, at about $40,000 before tax credits, it’s simply too expensive for most Americans.

nissan-leaf3. Gasoline is still too cheap. Yes, gas prices have climbed in the past few years, but they haven’t hit panic levels. In fact, while ranging between $2.50 to $4 a gallon in most places, they haven’t even come close. We say America doesn’t actually hit the panic button until gas prices hit $6 per gallon, and even then, old habits die hard.

4. The status quo rules. Say what you will about the American lifestyle and the American transportation model – both certainly deserve significant critique and revision in our view – but the vast majority of Americans are content with their lives. Gasoline cars get Americans where they want to go when they want to go there (okay, Americans sit stuck in traffic jams for countless hours, but, hey, they’ve got their “freedom”, right?). And they don’t have to spend vast amounts of money to get where they want to when they want to. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – especially when fixing it appears to many Americans to be a step backward rather than a step forward (and rightfully so with respect to the question of reduced range).

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{/googleAds} 5. Short-term economic logic rules even more than the status quo does. Short-term economic considerations drive every single facet of American life, from the environment to general health and well being. Take, for instance, the health care cost crisis, which, in the long-term threatens to sink the entire American economy not to mention our way of life, and America’s near total inaction on this crucial issue and you get the picture. In the American case – actually, in the global case, as short-term capitalistic logic has captured the entire world, money drives every decision, even life and death decisions. If money can, and does, determine how long people live, then it’s clear money – not concern for the environment, not concern for human health, not concern for the future of humanity – is what matters most when it comes to the EV vs. gasoline car showdown. And, right now, EVs cost too much more than equivalent gasoline cars, up front. Yes, EVs can mean long-term savings, not to mention a cleaner environment, improved human health, and a better outlook on the future of humanity, but none of these things matter when pitted against short-term economic thinking, the single most dominating logic of our times.

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