Through its loan and subsidy program, the United States is creating a market for electric cars where there is no demand. Usually the problem with buying demand is that once the payments go, the demand flies away also. In the case of electric cars, the problem is more serious, all the money being spent on creating demand isn’t creating much demand. The President’s goal of having one million electric cars on the road within the next four years simply isn’t going to happen.
According to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, electric cars appeal to a very small demographic, those most concerned with the environment and 57% of Americans claim they wouldn’t purchase and electric car no matter how high the price of of gas rises.
The anti-electric sentiment unmasked by the poll shows that pure electrics — defined in the poll question as “an electric car that you could only drive for a limited number of miles at one time” — could have trouble getting a foothold in the U.S.
Such cars “are very much niche vehicles. They find acceptance among a core group of passionistas, but too many questions remain for mainstream consumers,” says Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl. He says consumers worry about range per charge, recharge time and battery replacement cost. Electrics also are priced thousands of dollars more than similar gasoline cars.
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This poll is supported by a December 2010 study by the Marshall Institute which demonstrated that electric and hybrid cars not commercially viable without the large government subsidies. The demand for the current generation these cars has dropped as gasoline prices declined from their 2008 highs. Analysts have estimated that gasoline would have to increase to $4 a gallon or more to stimulate demand for hybrid and electric vehicles. The study concludes that: “Without subsidies and political pressure, it is doubtful that there would be much demand, except by the wealthy early adopters who want to make an environmental statement.”
“It’s not for every consumer,” says Maurice Durand, spokesman for Mitsubishi, which is to start selling a small four-passenger electric called the “i” in the U.S. in November. The “i” can go about 80 miles on a charge, and at $27,990 plus shipping, could be the lowest-priced electric.
Electric-car buyers also could qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and some states also offer credits.
Perhaps instead of trying to purchase market-share for a product that is not popular with the general public, the federal government’s time would be better spent on issuing leases to extract America’s vast oil resources out of the ground.
If that doesn’t work, there is always the Poop-Mobile: