Major change takes time. While many believe that we eventually need to move away from using non-renewable energy to power our vehicles, that change has come at a snail’s pace. A recent report by NADA entitled Alternative Powertrains: Analysis of Recent Market Trends and Value Retention found that “Although hybrids, electrics and other ‘green cars’ have been widely available for years, these vehicles have carved out a mere fraction of the market.” In terms of percentage of new car sales, green car sales have declined in each of the past three years.
While the electric car may seem like a modern invention, the first electric car dates back to the 1880s. In fact, by 1900, roughly one-third of all vehicles were powered by electric technology. When gasoline and gasoline-powered vehicles became more affordable, the electric car became an afterthought for many years. It was not until gas prices began to rise that Americans took a renewed interest in alternative vehicles.
While green car sales may be falling, proportionately, it is not due to a lack of interest from consumers. A study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that while “fewer than 1 percent of the U.S. population drives an electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid, four out of every 10 households could begin doing so with little or no change to their driving habits and vehicle needs.” Additionally, the study found that 65% of Americans believe that green vehicles are “an essential part of the country’s transportation future for reducing oil use and global warming pollution. Sixty percent saying they would consider owning one themselves.” If there is a considerable amount of interest in green vehicles, why aren’t a larger percentage of Americans buying them?
There are two major reasons that Americans are shying away from green cars: high cost and lack of existing infrastructure. While driving an alternative energy vehicle will save at the pump, electric cars are traditionally much more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts. Also, the range that electric vehicles offer leaves much to be desired. According to Fuel Economy.gov, “Range is typically limited to 60 to 120 miles on a full charge, although a few models can go 200 to 300 miles.” Not only does the range fail to meet the needs of many American travelers, fully charging a battery can take up to eight hours.
It is clear that many Americans view electric cars and other alternative technologies as the answer to our transportation needs in the future. Moreover, a majority of Americans would consider purchasing an alternative vehicle. The sales figures for green cars, however, tell a different story. Until green cars become more affordable and offer a better range, affordable and fuel-efficient vehicles will most likely continue to be the main focus. Electric vehicles may be the answer to the future, but efficient gas-powered vehicles are the solution for today’s transportation needs.