Recent moves by Japan’s two largest automakers suggest that the electric car, after more than 100 years of development and several brief revivals, still is not ready for prime time – and may never be.
In the meantime, the attention of automotive executives in Asia, Europe and North America is beginning to swing toward an unusual but promising new alternate power source: hydrogen.
I know of a few people who own all-electric cars, and seem to like them for an urban lifestyle. Hey, I’m fine with that. But anyone who has to drive a distance or who has random traffic patterns seems to be pretty down on the idea of a car that needs a plug.
The public’s lack of appetite for battery-powered cars persuaded the Obama administration last week to back away from its aggressive goal to put 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015.
The tepid response to EVs also pushed Nissan’s high-profile chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, perhaps the industry’s most outspoken proponent of battery cars, to announce in December a major strategic shift toward more mainstream gasoline-electric hybrids, which overcome many of the shortcomings of pure EVs.
I think it’s worth reading the whole article, since it talks a lot about the Nissan and Toyota strategies, and it’s a good overview.
Erika Johnson comments as well over on Hot Air on the Obama administration backing off the push for 1 Million EVs:
Obvious lesson? You cannot force a particularly technology to succeed in the free market and fit in with our national infrastructure, simply because you have the “disposable” taxpayer dollars available to make such “investments” — and it is unwise to try. Not only do you encourage wasteful rent-seeking and subsidy-chasing, but you discourage real price efficiency and divert capital and resources away from less politically favored technologies with legitimate potential. …But I won’t hold my breath that this means they’re actually ready to give up on the relentless subsidies — not even a little bit.
At this point, I’ll cut the administration some slack, since at least they’re paying enough attention to know that their idea is dumb. That’s not so true in other cases. I doubt they’ll actually change any policy, just tone down the high-level commentary. After all, government spending money doesn’t go away.
Meanwhile, feel free to go take a drive today in celebration of the fact that the auto dealers (at least the Japanese ones) are focused on what people want, and will give you quality vehicles that you’ll actually use. That’s called business savvy.