The range of electric vehicles (EVs) is increasing, battery life and charging times are getting better, but often price points and range anxiety -- the worry of running out of juice on your journey -- deter consumers from buying.
As a result, hybrids that run on electricity and are also powered by fossil fuels are slightly more popular, but overall sales of EVs of any description remain at less than one percent of all car purchases in the United States.
Rental car firms are seen as a way to allow consumers to try out EVs before buying, but the novelty isn't enough. Consumer demand has been lower than expected due to range and battery worries, and so a number of companies are delaying electric car rollouts in their fleets to prevent profit loss.
Consumers who rent EVs from U.S. rental service Enterprise Holdings, for example, often turn right back and trade for a gas-powered car due to range anxiety. In an interview, Lee Broughton, head of sustainability at Enterprise said:
"People are very keen to try it, but they will switch out of the contract part way through. Range anxiety makes them think they can't get to a charging station."
The company has roughly 300 EVs -- rather than its target of 500 set in 2010 -- in its fleet due to this problem. Hertz has experienced the same problem, and so its fleet falls far short of the rental service's original target of 1,000 EVs in its fleet by 2011.
Analyst at MKM Holdings Christopher Agnew said in an interview that a longer range would boost consumer demand for EVs, especially as customers are often renting in unfamiliar areas -- and may not know where charging stations are. In comparison to fossil fuel variations, the hassle may not be worth it.
“It's fairly clear that we are going to need a bigger range battery at an affordable price at some point for EVs to take off," Agnew said. "That's what any battery maker or manufacturer of EVs would say."
Roughly 140,000 plugin EVs are on the road in the U.S., which falls short of President Obama's target for one million electric vehicles to be in use by 2015.
Image credit: Nissan