How to tell when electric cars have made it, and why we don’t need a cheap one
Is the future electric? Are electric vehicles destined to displace the internal combustion engine for passenger vehicles once and for all? If so, how long is that going to take? And why does an all-electric Nissan LEAF cost $30,000 when it looks just like a Nissan Versa you can get for a shade under $12,000 if the dealer is desperate?
I believe the answers to those questions are yes, yes, by the year 2043 (write that down), and because batteries are still expensive and the Versa is a lousy car, particularly compared to the LEAF. But the electric car has not truly arrived yet – luckily, it will be easy to tell when that happy day comes.
Some will argue that electric vehicles won’t be successful until you can buy one for under $20,000, just like your run-of-the-mill Honda Civic. Those people are wrong for a few reasons, chief among them that by the time such an electric car arrives gasoline will presumably be so expensive that the operating cost advantage of electric cars, which is already huge, will make such a comparison laughable. A $25,000 all-electric vehicle will be quite comparable to a $20,000 gas-burner.
No, we will know that electric cars have arrived the day the first all-electric pickup truck and competitively priced all-electric midsize sedan reach their customers. I’m talking true competitors to the Ford F-150 and Toyota Camry. The price it will take? Maybe $40-45K for the truck, $25-28K for the sedan. Those numbers would be game-changers.
The Toyota Camry sold 428,606 copies in the U.S. last year. Its segment competitors, the Accord and Altima and Fusion and Sonata and Malibu, were not terribly far behind. In fact, 6 of the top 11 cars in 2014 (not including trucks and SUVs) were these family sedans. Of course, those numbers pale in comparison to the gaudy stats put up by the pickups: how about 753,851 for the Ford F-150, 529,755 for the Silverado, and 439,789 for Ram?
We shouldn’t leave out the small SUVs, like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape – those two vehicles topped 300,000 sales last year. But the Camry and F-150 fighters should come first.
It’s still early days, and no known electric pickup or non-luxury midsize sedan is in the works (that’s not to say they aren’t, but we don’t know about any yet.) However, at some point in the not-too-distant future, these cars will arrive and will seal the fate of the exclusively gas-powered automobile.