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Electric Car Interest Wanes

Updated on February 9, 2011

U.S. President Obama believes that citizens should make an investment in the future and purchase electric cars, but unfortunately interest is waning for consumers. Car dealers are reporting poor sales of the electric vehicles despite claims that they are energy efficient and will save money. What exactly are consumers afraid of? 

Slow Car Sales

Car dealers have been reporting lackluster car sales when it comes to electric cars. They believe it is due in part to fears of vehicle break-downs. American consumers are quick to pick up the latest technological gadget, but when it comes to big ticket items, such as a car, they are slower to invest. With regards to electric cars they may be viewed as a passing fad instead of being the wave of the future. Consumers are visualizing themselves being stranded on the side of the road with an electric car. Just who would or could help an electric malfunction roadside without having to have the vehicle towed to a service station? In addition consumers are wary of what their electric bill would be, especially if they purchased a high production vehicle. Estimates range from 25 cents a recharge for a small electric car to $40 dollars or more for a high-end sporty vehicle.

Hybrid cars aren’t selling well either, due in part to the purchase price and because of breakdown fears. Estimated retail price for the Nissan Leaf is $32,780, the 3rd generation Prius has a starting price of $23,050 and the Chevy Volt’s starting price is $41,000. Electric car costs can run much higher though. A Roadster manufactured by Tesla Motors costs $109,000 and Commuter Car's Tango costs $150,000.

The Battery Concern

Electric cars run on lithium-ion batteries – the same type of batteries that run most laptop computers. As laptop owners already know, lithium batteries are great when they’re new, but eventually they no longer hold a sufficient charge to keep their computer running and need to be replaced. While lithium-ion batteries can be recycled once their charge has been totally depleted, the facilities to recycle these types of batteries are few and far between (visit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation for more information). The end result is a higher cost to consumers, whether they have to buy a new battery or pay to recycle the dead battery.

Replacement costs for a new battery, including labor, range from $1,000 to over $6,000.  For the average Joe, having this kind of cash on hand simply isn't feasible, especially if they're living paycheck to paycheck.

Tax Credits

To help boost electric car sales, large tax credits are being offered. Up to $7,500 is currently being offered and it is speculated that in the next year or so the credit may be as high as $15,000. Consumers still may not bite if they’re afraid the cars won’t have lasting or resale value, especially if these cars are more fad than future.

Crash Safety

For many consumers, crash safety is an important consideration in buying a vehicle. While many electric car manufacturers are touting the safety of their electric or hybrid cars, consumers still aren’t so sure.

Of particular concern is the safety of first responders (EMT's, paramedics, firemen) should the electric or hybrid vehicles be in a crash. While training is being provided for first responders in some major cities, the training hasn’t made it to more rural areas as of yet. How do you use the jaws of life in a car wreck when you don’t know if it will electrocute you in the process? Or, if an electric car were submerged in water, what are the risks to the occupants or first responders? It may be a while before these questions can be answered definitively- there simply isn’t enough data on these types of accidents in the U.S. yet.

Hazy Outlook

While there certainly seems to be a perceived benefit to using electric cars, there are still many kinks that need to be worked out. For cars that need to be recharged, the electricity needs to come from somewhere, and generally that comes from coal (which doesn't sit well with environmentalists).

The cost is certainly prohibitive for blue collar America; financing an electric car, even the "cheap" ones, can put a serious dent in your wallet.

Finally, crash safety will always be a concern. Electric cars are built to be light weight, which some believe may mean less safety in an effort to offset battery weight. In addition, the cars are very small in contrast to other vehicles on the highway. There is a perceived threat when riding around in these vehicles, especially when you're riding alongside semi-trucks going 65+ miles per hour. 

For these reasons, consumers may wait until there is more data on safety, battery life and resale value before delving into their wallets to buy electric cars.

Electric Car Poll

As a consumer, how to you feel about electric/hybrid cars?

See results


Submit a Comment
  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    8 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Nan, The oil situation certainly doesn't look promising, especially if the Somali pirates continue hijacking freighters and the Suez Canal is blocked. Perhaps natural gas will provide an alternative. For example, Schwan's (home delivery food) runs their delivery truck fleet on natural gas, and that is something we wouldn't have to import. I think I'll write a hub on this soon!

  • Nan Mynatt profile image

    Nan Mynatt 

    8 years ago from Illinois

    Good work on your research on the electric car. I guess we will be running out of oil soon (smile). But I am afriad like most people, what might happen if the battery is down, in the middle of no where.


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