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Electric vehicles: Higher gas prices won't charge sales

March 21, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Bruce Sargent of Ashland, Ore., tops off the charge on his Nissan Leaf in Central Point, Ore. The station is one of eight along a 160-mile section of Interstate 5.
Bruce Sargent of Ashland, Ore., tops off the charge on his Nissan Leaf in… (Associated Press )

Will higher gas prices help lift sales of electric vehicles?

Lacey Plache, the chief economist for, says the hurdles are still too high for widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

In an analysis for automotive research firm R.L. Polk & Co., Plache notes that one problem is that there still isn’t a lot of choice when it comes to electrics and plug-in hybrids.

While at least nine electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles  are expected to become available in 2012, only the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are widely available.

But even when there are more electric vehicles on the market, charging and vehicle-range per charge will still be issues, Plache wrote.

“There are over 100,000 gas stations in this country, but only 2,600 EV charging stations, of which more than 300 are private,” Plache said. “Charging a vehicle only at home at night is insufficient for some consumers’ driving habits; other consumers are simply plagued by range anxiety and do not want to risk being stranded.”

Moreover, the financial numbers still don’t make sense for most consumers.

“Compared to a Nissan Versa, a Leaf owner would have to hold on to the Leaf for seven years in order to recoup the price difference through fuel-cost savings even if gas prices rise to $4 per gallon. Compared to a Chevy Cruze, a Volt owner would need 12 years. But according to a recent analysis, consumers tend to own their vehicles for just five to six years, on average,” Plache said.

Finally, there is the competition from from a growing roster of highly fuel-efficient gas-powered vehicles that offer a combination of familiar fuel technology, lower prices and greater model selection, she said.


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