Life Of The Electric Car

Bradford Plumer speculates about what it would take to make electric cars a viable alternative:

[Is] a massive electrification push doable? It all depends. The necessary infrastructure won't likely materialize on its own, even if the price of oil rose. The government will have to offer incentives to set up charging stations, and it would ideally start in a few key "ecosystem" cities. Once the technology's demonstrated and reaches a critical mass, it'd be more likely to catch on.

One snag, though, is that battery prices will have to keep dropping for electric cars to become anything more than a niche product. (And not everyone's so sure that batteries will naturally keep getting cheaper and more powerful, the way microchips havein October, Lux Research singled out slow advances in battery technology as a major hurdle for the electric-vehicle industry.)

The report also notes that consumer behavior will have to change. Right now, when buying cars, people tend to focus far more on the sticker price of a vehicle and less on how much it will cost to drive a car over the course of its lifetime. Electric cars may be cheaper to drive per mile, especially if oil prices keep rising, but most people are psychologically repulsed by their high upfront cost. And, the coalition argues, Congress isn't likely to hike gas taxes in the coming year.