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Electric-vehicle sales forecast to remain low

All the hype about the new generation of electric cars might only reflect the passions of technology geeks and environmentalists.

Auto industry research company J.D. Power and Associates said Wednesday that combined global sales of hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles were expected to reach just 5.2 million vehicles in 2020, or only 7.3 percent of the 70.9 million autos expected to be sold that year.

The industry is expected to sell about 1 million electric and hybrid vehicles this year, a little more than 2 percent of global demand, the company said in its “Drive Green 2020” report.

According to the market research company, this new generation of cars has a few problems. Gas prices remain too low to generate demand. Consumers remain concerned about the technology. Drivers worry about the range of the cars. And at the end of the day, they are just too expensive compared with conventional combustion-engine vehicles.

“Many consumers say they are concerned about the environment, but when they find out how much a green vehicle is going to cost, their altruistic inclination declines considerably,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of automotive operations at J.D. Power. “For example, among consumers in the U.S. who initially say they are interested in buying a hybrid vehicle, the number declines by some 50 percent when they learn of the extra $5,000, on average, it would cost to acquire the vehicle.”

Humphrey said drivers are tripped up by how long one would have to own such a vehicle to realize cost savings on fuel, compared with a conventional car. They also worry about the cost of replacing depleted battery packs.

Still, there’s a passionate cadre of hybrid- and electric-car fans, Humphrey said. They are generally older, more highly educated — possessing a postgraduate degree — high-income individuals who have a deep interest in technology or who like to be among the early adopters of any new technology product. But that doesn’t describe the general population.

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