Up & down gas prices not best scenario for EVs

gas-priceseditors-blog-entry3It’s a bit of a truism that every time gas prices rise in the U.S., electric car advocates shout: “See, we told you so!”

Heck, I confess to being part of the shout about gas prices crowd, and, yes, I’ll even cop to smirking a bit when gas prices go up. Any true EV advocate who claims he/she doesn’t smile, at least a little bit, when gas prices go up in the U.S. isn’t being truthful.

In fact, I’ve written more than my fair share of these types of the “sky is falling”, or, really, sky high gas prices are “skying”, as in skyrocketing, during the past 3 ½ years on SolarChargedDriving.Com. Check out a few of these entries, for example –> ‘Say goodbye to high gas prices forever’, ‘Say no to high gas prices: Fuel an EV with home solar’, ‘Why rising oil prices make me smile.’

As time has progressed, I’ve come to realize this approach may not be the most effective one, and may even be counter-productive.

How so?

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Steadily rising gas prices
Yes, gas prices have been going up steadily in the U.S., and around the world over the years, as the United States Energy Information Administration (USEIA) graph at the top clearly shows.

However, there’s another trend, especially over the past four to five years, that isn’t exactly in plug-in vehicles’ favor: An up/down, up/down, up/down trend.

If you take a look at U.S. gas prices since the spring of 2008, you can see four of these up/down instances. Currently, we’re looking at a possible fifth up/down situation with gas prices on their way up in the U.S., having spiked about 50 cents per gallon in the past couple of months.

EV advocates are again shouting about rising gas prices. And they are correct: Prices are shooting up. Trouble is, with four prior up/down gas price events in just the past four years, there’s a danger EV proponents are going to be viewed as shouting “Wolf!”

pump-gas-nozzlePrice spikes only temporary?
Given the up/down pattern in gas prices, who could blame people for being skeptical, or for saying, “Yeah, sure gas prices are up – but it’s just temporary, they’ll come down again. That’s what they’ve always been doing.”

Well, no, not always. The clear long-term trend is rising gas prices.

But the short-term is what most people remember, and the short-term has seen gas prices repeatedly spike only to fall back to only slightly higher levels than before the spike.

I’m not saying this up/down gas price pattern will necessarily continue – and I don’t have a good explanation for why it’s occurred so frequently lately.

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Exponential plug-in growth?
However, I will say, it’s not necessarily a positive pattern for EVs, or, at the very least, not a great pattern if what you’re hoping to see for plug-ins is the same type of out-of-nowhere-shoot-through-the-sky growth that happened for hybrids in the U.S. in 2005.

After all, who’s going to rush out to buy a plug-in vehicle based on rising gasoline prices when, chances are, those prices will come down again?

No, EV advocates, the slow but steady climb upward in gas prices in the U.S. isn’t enough. What we really need is a shoot-through-the-roof rise in gas prices that actually sticks, not for a few months, or even half a year, but for years and years, or, really, an at least moderately rapid and unrelenting upward trend in gas prices.

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