Could close to a quarter of the cars sold in the U.S. in 2030 be plug-ins, both plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars? Potentially, according to a report out this morning from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which found that U.S. plug-in car sales could ramp up to 9 percent of U.S. auto sales by 2020, and 22 percent by 2030.
The determining factors for that growth will be gas prices (they need to be high enough), and the lowering costs of battery technology. If battery costs can drop over the next two decades, then prices of plug-in cars can drop, too, given the battery makes up the bulk of the cost. The electric vehicles that will first be on sale for mainstream consumers, including GM’s Volt and the Nissan LEAF, are at least $5,000 higher than the price of an average new car.
And as GM puts it in its new ad for the Volt: “This is America, man.” Americans are extraordinarily price sensitive. When learning that they will have to spend an extra $5,000 for a greener car, the number of consumers who say they are interested falls by 50 percent, according to a recent report from J.D. Power & Associates.
Of course over the long run, a plug-in car could save a car owner fuel costs. But calculating those savings isn’t so easy. You’ll find it hard to squeeze any good numbers on savings from carmakers right now, partly because they don’t know either. How much you can save in fuel costs depends how much you spend normally on gas and the fuel economy of the car. And what car makers can claim on the fuel economy label is still being reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Gas prices could be one of the most important factors that could determine sales. But clearly gas prices have been hard to predict.
Related content on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):