Electric cars are selling much better than hybrids did
Some people who expected electric cars (broadly defined to include plug-in hybrids like the Volt, where the gas engine never directly drives the wheels) to immediately take over the world upon being unleashed on the market are disappointed by EV sales so far. But if life has taught us one thing, it's that patience and perspective are important.
Four years after being launched in North-America in 2000, the Toyota Prius hybrid had cumulative sales of around 52,000 (the Prius passed 3 million units sold last summer), according to IHS Automotive. Four years after launch, the Nissan LEAF electric car had cumulative sales of over 100,000 units. Four years in, the Chevrolet Volt and its European twin the Ampera have over 70,000 units sold. The Tesla Model S hasn't been around for four years, but its cumulative sales should be over 30,000 now, and accelerating fast. And then there are all kinds of other plug-ins selling in fewer numbers but making progress, with new models waiting in the wings.
When you look at it like that, it's obvious that the EV market is still very young (well, it's over 100 years old, technically, but the modern EV revival is still young), and doing much better than hybrids did at this stage of their development. Toyota alone has now sold millions of hybrids (the Prius is the #1 vehicle in Japan) and now offers many more models than it did, and it's a safe bet that most people who are buying plug-ins now would have otherwise bought hybrids, so growth could have been even faster.
So I'm not too worried about electric cars. Like solar panels, they'll be a small part of the market at first, reserved for early adopters and visionaries, and over time as prices drop and the technology gets refined, they'll take over. Why? Because they're better than what we have now, and so are EVs.
Don't get me wrong. The greenest way to move around is to walk, bike, or take transit. But if you're going to drive - and many people don't always have a choice, especially the 50% of people who like in more rural areas - the best thing to drive is definitely a plug-in.