Automobiles powered with electricity have “sparked” interest since the middle of the 19th century. There were quite a few practical models appearing by the end of the 1800s, including a fleet of taxis roaming the streets of London in 1897 and operating in New York City in 1898.
But as a result of lacking electric infrastructure, limited range and rising purchase prices, electric cars soon took a back seat to gasoline-powered counterparts. The more affordable price and the longer range sought for growing highway systems propelled the popularity of autos running on fossil fuel.
After decades of obscurity, the energy crisis of the 1970s and 1980s revived interest in an alternative to gasoline, prompting General Motors to introduce an electric concept car in 1990. That concept became GM’s EV1, followed quickly with electric models from Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota.
Those cars, and the many unveiled since, have had limited sales success. Lately, plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), which include battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PEHVs), have struggled to gain footholds in the market, but are progressing.
Acceptance is hindered by vehicle availability, charging time, range anxiety, charging infrastructure, public opinion and price.
The price issue has been eased with countries throughout the world, including the United States, offering purchase incentives in the form of rebates. A tax credit in the U.S., for example, allows buyers up to $7,500 for the purchase of an EV.
Success is still limited, but has been boosted by the popularity of models like Toyota’s Prius introduced in 1997. Even with the success of the Prius, however, along with highly the highly advanced Tesla and new Chevrolet Bolt, there have been only around been around 600,000 PEVs sold in the U.S. to date. That pales in comparison to over 70 million total vehicles sold here over just the last 10 years.
So, in which direction is PEV acceptance progressing? It seems, slowly upward. More models, more range, and better pricing coupled with rising public interest are expected to lure evermore drivers away from internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts. Future costs of fossil fuels are likely to enter into the eventual comparison of the two power sources as well.
With electricity currently accounting for only 0.1% of transportation-related energy consumption and 92% derived from petroleum, there is plenty of room for electricity’s potential gain. In recent years, there has indeed been a sales gain in BEVs and PHEVs. In fact, sales of both of those types of PEVs have increased by 700% since 2011.
In total, 19 manufacturers have offered 86 PEV models since 2011, the majority of them being introduced in the last four years. For now, it seems that the influx into our fleet is slowly and steadily upward.
Fuel economy is the biggest advantage consumers favor in PEVs, followed by low-to-zero emissions. Compared to ICE vehicles, with a fleet average of 22.8 mpg, the average mpge (mile per gallon equivalent for BEVs is 4.5 times higher at 103.0.
PHEVs are more likely to first wean drivers off of gasoline due to their range. Whereas PHEVs average range of 462 miles meets or exceeds average ICE driving range, BEVs’ range on each charge currently averages only 187 miles.
Future costs of both electricity and gasoline will play roles in the feasibility and popularity of electric vehicles, but trends now indicate they will stay around awhile.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.