Electric cars may very well be the future of the automotive industry, but that could be many years off. The key is making electric cars affordable and practical for everyone.
First, let’s look at a little bit of history. Electric cars are not new. The first all electric vehicle was made in 1828 by Anyos Jedlik. The first all electric vehicle made in America was produced by Thomas Davenport in 1834. An all electric car held the world land speed record until 1900. So, electric vehicles are not a new invention. The obstacles to mass production then were a low top speed, short range, and inability to recharge the fuel cells.
EV Barriers to Success: Range and Affordability
Today, the top speed and recharging issues have been solved, but short range and affordability are holding electric cars back. It is very possible that solving the range issue will solve the affordability problem as well. Battery technology is crucial to this, and innovations are being made at a rapid pace. To boot, the range component may be more of a perceived issue versus an actual one, as the Union of Concerned Scientists recently found that 42% of American households could switch to an EV with no change in driving habits.
Remember, every bit of new technology hits the market with a high price. As a larger market develops for the product, the price usually drops in order to sell in volume; the theory being that the profit from volume will outstrip the profit per item. This theory has been proven out for centuries.
Now back to electric cars. When the range of an electric car becomes sufficient to meet the daily driving needs of a wide range of Americans, more Americans will want to buy them. That should take us back to the volume sales over profit per item theory. When there is a larger market, electric cars should become more affordable for all. Given that an all electric car now costs about 40 percent less than one did just ten years ago, it seems as if this theory is proving itself, albeit slowly. Before the year 2020, it’s conceivable that a manufacturer will introduce a mass-market, low-price EV that’s affordable for the majority of new car-buyers.