Too Early to Bury the Electric Car?
> Decade after decade of false starts have finally brought us close to everyday electric cars. General Motors (NYS: GM) and Nissan both rolled out plug-in electrics late in 2010, and Ford (NYS: F) is now taking reservations on a plug-in version of its Focus hatchback. Monthly EV sales accelerated quickly last year but soon reached a plateau, and there are troubling signs that interest -- at least for the short term -- might be on the wane. Just 603 Volts and 676 Leafs left the lots last month, significantly lower than December's sales.
Why isn't the electric car catching on? Is it technology or infrastructure? There are reasons to ding batteries and charging stations, and I've already covered both. But there seems little wrong with the technology for moderate use, and early adopters have been vehemently supportive of the driving experience. Maybe a skeptical public is just zapped by the hype over electric that's been too much, too ambitious, and too soon.
Feeding the beast
EV hype has had major ups and downs since the Volt and Leaf were first announced. It's interesting to see various projections organized chronologically:
- July 1, 2010: Volt Marketing Director Tony DiSalle confirms plans to produce 10,000 Volts for the U.S. in 2011, and 30,000 in 2012. The 2012 estimate was soon raised to 45,000.
- Sept. 24, 2010: Nissan announces 20,000 U.S. reservations for the Leaf.
- Nov. 16, 2010: Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn projects sales of 500,000 Leafs per year within three years.
- Jan. 21, 2011: Bloomberg reports that GM CEO Dan Akerson plans to increase the Volt's production capacity to 120,000 in 2012.
- Jan. 25, 2011: President Obama calls on America to put a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
- June 1, 2011: Nissan VP Al Castiganetti expects to sell 10,000 to 12,000 Leafs in the U.S. by year's end. This projection is accurate; 9,674 sold last year.
- Nov. 4, 2011: Despite selling only 5,000 Volts to this point, Akerson appears on CNBC to reiterate 2010's projection of 45,000 Volts.
- Feb. 1, 2012: January's sales totals come in.
- Feb. 3, 2012: Chevrolet VP Alan Batey abandons earlier production estimates of 45,000 Volts, stating that GM would instead "balance supply and demand."
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