Electric cars? Americans still want their pickups

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

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 the Volt.

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.

Kreutzer, Dr. David (Heritage)"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 vehicles.

"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," Kreutzer adds.

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.

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