In a speech before the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) in Washington, DC, former NY Governor George Pataki called for a 40% market penetration of electric vehicles before the end of the current decade.
Calling the US reliance on foreign oil “one of the most devastating policy failures of our time”, Pataki rejected current projections for market share of up to 7% by 2020.
To reach his projected number, Pataki suggested tax incentives for auto makers producing vehicles that achieve over 75 mpg, incentivizing battery manufacturers to push the technology envelope and incentivizing consumers to purchase electric vehicles. He addressed the current infrastructure inadequacies as well, pointing out that, “…investments in the smart grid have to be made. Right now we are operating with a grid that was not adequate at the middle of the last century.”
Look, I’m all for electric cars – what’s not to like about a vehicle that develops maximum torque at zero RPM? The truth of the matter is that electric cars still require a compromise – a BIG compromise – when compared to their gasoline counterparts. For example, I can jump in a car and drive from Florida to California, delayed only by fuel stops, bio breaks and coffee runs. The best range you can hope for in a current electric vehicle is somewhere around 200 miles (although Simon Hackett drove a Tesla Roadster 313 miles on a single charge during the 10th Annual Global Green Challenge in Australia). Who wants to wait overnight before they can drive another 200 miles?
Factor in the other downsides (higher cost of limited production electric cars, cost of replacement batteries, lack of dealer support, lack of recharging facilities, performance issues in cold weather, etc.) and gasoline remains the hands-down winner today. Improvements in battery density and weight are essential in making the electric car a reasonable substitute for gasoline powered automobiles. We may be able to get there over the next decade, but I don’t see any way that we’ll get there in time for Governor Pataki’s overly optimistic projections.