by Randy Essex, of the Rocky Mountain Institute - one new story the media are telling that is counterproductive to solving our oil addiction: That the launch of the first mass-market electric cars, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, is fizzling. Under the headline “Are electric cars losing their spark?” USA Today this month focused on Chevy Volt fires that came only in tests and on Volt and Leaf sales falling below projections this year, reaching probably about 17,000 between the two. In naming the Volt one of the big product flops of the year, Yahoo Finance made much the same arguments.
This narrative simply lacks context. Gas-powered vehicles catch fire nearly 200,000 times a year—on the road, not in labs [chart here]. Toyota, which has now sold more than 1 million hybrids in the U.S., sold only about 5,800 of its Prius hybrid to U.S. customers in 2000, the first year it was offered here. Selling 17,000 EVs in the first year may not be so bad.
To be sure, pricy EVs face obstacles to consumer acceptance. So did the car. The Literary Digest (not to be confused with the USA Today of its time), proclaimed in 1899, “The ordinary ‘horseless carriage’ is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle.”
I want to stop buying gas. The patriotic alternatives, with no loss of comfort, safety or convenience, are on the road.
So I see an EV in my future, just as I see EVs becoming as common as hybrids within a few years. But Iran’s latest threat reminds us that we need to go further faster, for example while the Saudi royal family is able to maintain power without direct U.S. military intervention, even as repressive regimes around it collapse.
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