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Electric cars doomed? Market outperforms early hybrid sales

The electric car is doomed..nobody is buying them..these unfounded myth is perpetuated across much of the mainstream media.

And yet new research by Scientific American shows that electric car sales are actually performing better than hybrids did were when they were first introduced.

Scientific American graph

In producing a graph, the US magazine shows the relative sales of some of the best known EVs in the first 36 months of global sales compared to that of the world’s best-selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius (read the full blog post here). Models including the Prius plug-in hybrid, Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt all show stronger performance than the original Prius did when it first launched. The exception to the rule is the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, whose sales have dipped in the last couple of months.

Hybrid cars such as Toyota’s Prius have largely been dubbed a success with sales of the brand’s hybrid models now topping 4 million worldwide. But like all disruptive, new technology, hybrid sales actually took a while to get going and when the Prius was first introduced in 1997, the model sold just 323 models. That rose to more than one million cumulative sales by 2008.

EV sales double

As many modern electric vehicles only reached the market in 2011, it would be premature to say they were doomed. Models such as the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Chevrolet Volt are only a couple of years old. Given that the electric car market is roughly two years old, it is impressive to see that global sales more than doubled between 2011 and 2012. According to Scientific American, they stood at around 45,000 in 2011, but rose to around 120,000 global sales by 2012.

It is fair to point out that fully electric cars have been supported by subsidies in many countries and that this comparison does not account for that. But even so, it is clear to see that though the numbers sold remain small, coming from nowhere, they show impressive growth.

Hindered by a lack of infrastructure and limited driving ranges, it will take time for battery models to achieve mass acceptance. Like all new technologies electric cars are in their early, delicate first stages, when they are dependant on early adopters, who are less price conscious, to take the plunge.

Widespread deployment of EVs will take time, although the Electric Vehicles Initiative, a coalition of 15 key countries, has set a target of over 20 million EVs on the road by 2020. According to Scientific America, this is achievable, but even this will just be a small share (about 2 per cent) of the world’s total car sales at that point.

Source: Scientific American

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Faye Sunderland

Filed under: Electric cars

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