BMW wants electric vehicles to make up 15 to 25 percent of its sales by 2025. But the Bavarian firm has only sold 70,000 i-series plugin cars since 2013. That didn’t go a long way toward covering the 4 billion euro ($4.3 billion) research and development cost. Other companies that are investing heavily into EVs aren’t selling many, either. Renault-Nissan had a target of 1.5 million electric cars for 2010-2016, but, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, it only sold 28 percent of that number. Despite all the subsidies and tax breaks, EVs only make up about 1.2 percent of the global market. In relative terms, the market is growing fast — the EV share was just 0.1 percent in 2011 — but in absolute terms, there are too few EVs on the road to justify the attention they’re getting.
To spend heavily on electrification, companies have to believe forecasts from experts who don’t have skin in the game. McKinsey, for example, recently put out a report arguing that consumer interest in electric cars is growing. All automakers need to do is keep up incremental improvements and advertising more to increase awareness.
That could turn out to be wishful thinking, because the modern EV caters to a specific-use scenario that increasingly doesn’t work for today’s consumers.
The most long-range electric cars can go 250 miles on a charge under perfect conditions. They take hours to charge at most of the currently available stations, and even the minimum of 30 minutes one needs to spend at a Tesla Supercharger is a nuisance on long journeys. The cars, however, are fine for someone who lives in the suburbs (in a single-family home, so charging at night isn’t a problem) and works nine to five in the city, where the car can be hooked up to a charging pole during an office shift.