Automakers may be coming out with cheaper models of
alternative-energy vehicles, but one research fellow thinks
consumers will continue to buy pickup trucks and other gas-powered
models for the time being.
Last week, General Motors announced that a cheaper Chevy Volt is planned. While a sales
price was not announced, one official was quoted as saying the new
model would be "thousands" cheaper.
Nissan, meanwhile, said that before the end of 2012 it would be
coming out with a cheaper Nissan Leaf, the primary competitor to
David Kreutzer, research fellow in energy economics for The Heritage
Foundation, believes that many people will still find the price
of an electric car to be too high.
"I think we're going to be buying pickup trucks for
the time being, and I think one of the problems with coming out
with a Chevy Volt that is a couple of thousand cheaper is that you
still have a $40,000 'economy' car," he points out.
"I'm not sure that is the way we're going to drive development
of battery-powered cars, if there is any way at all to do it."
Kreutzer thinks automakers should follow the pattern of cell
phones when making plug-ins and other alternative energy
"You had very expensive cell phones when they first came out and
only the wealthy had them initially; people with very specialized
needs," he says, "So perhaps a more promising path will be from
Tesla, where they are selling a $60,000 to $100,000 car to people
can afford them right now, almost as toys."
Volt sales were up substantially last year, but critics point
out that some of those numbers were driven by purchases from
government agencies and utility companies, while leases were also
counted as sales.
Regardless, the number of Volts, Leafs and other electric models
currently represent only a small, single-digit percentage of the
cars on today's roads.
"It remains to be seen whether there are a lot of people who
want to pay $40,000 for a car to save on their gasoline bill,"
Ford has announced a plug-in hybrid that gets the equivalent of
100 miles per gallon. While it carries roughly the same sticker
price ($39,495) as the Toyota Prius plug-in, the Ford Fusion Energi is about twice the price as
the base-model, conventional Fusion. Ford has also stated that the
estimated $6,800 in fuel costs for this model would be accumulated
over five years of driving.