Today, the global auto community is glowing as though electrified: Wherever you look, prototypes of electric cars are being shoved under your nose in presentations, in promotional material, and at industry shows, most recently in Detroit.
General Motors and Chrysler apparently see the electric car as a way out of their crises.
Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn considers it to be the future of driving, and the German government wants a million electrically powered vehicles on the road by 2020.
Everyone seems enthusiastic. But has any one bothered to ask the consumer? There are surveys that produce the expected results: 46 percent of all motorists supposedly want electric drive.
Are these the same people who previously said they would buy Volkswagens three-cylinder Lupo, or one of Toyotas hybrids?
Unfortunately, none of these vehicles has reached a market share of 46 percent.
And it will probably be difficult for electric cars to do so in the foreseeable future.
Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Applied Sciences in Duisburg-Essen, believes there will only be electric cars by 2025.
The facts argue against a rapid boom in electric vehicles.
Greenpeace has calculated that each of the 50 electric Minis tested in Berlin emits 133.5 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, because the electricity used to recharge the vehicles batteries is generated by coal-burning power plants.
Thats 29.5 grams more than the Mini Cooper D. In the US, where 450 Minis Es will soon take to the road, the estimated carbon dioxide emission is expected to be even higher.
And I cant wait to see the first environmental balance sheet that includes the energy consumed by the vehicles assembly as well as their operation. The manufacture of lithium ion batteries and electric motors requires a lot of energy.
Its hard to fathom why American manufacturers see their salvation in a technology that wont generate profits until 2020 at the earliest. General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler are standing at the precipice right now.
Additionally, the electric-car hype is distracting the automakers from their day-to-day business and more than a few potential buyers believe they soon will be able to buy an electrical-powered car.
As a result, they are putting off their purchases.
Someone should tell these people that their current car will be a collectible before they can afford an electric car with comparable performance.