Who Will Buy Electric Cars?

Thomas Turrentine

1998 will be a big year for both automakers and clean-air advocates. In less than three years, the seven largest car sellers in California must sell zero-emission vehicles (ZEHs)-2 percent of their sales of vehicles under 3750 lbs loaded weight. Given the size of the current market, that's about 20,000 vehicles and they most likely will be electric cars. By 2003, 10 percent must be zero-emitters. The crux is that the government requires consumers to buy them. The big manufacturers say electric cars cost too much to make and consumers won't choose them, even if prices were to match those of gasoline vehicles. The automakers have threatened to raise the price of gasoline vehicles to offset their losses. Much of the debate hinges on just how many Californians-or other car buyers throughout the world-will want an electric vehicle (EV).

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