Electric Car Sales Are Slow. Does It Matter?

GE electric car charging photoLowes/Screen capture

The other day I walked past a Nissan LEAF here in Durham,

NC. I've actually seen a few in and around town, and it got me musing over recent news that Nissan LEAF sales have been slow, and that the Chevy Volt also hasn't seen the kind of astronomical sales figures some had been hoping for.

Certain vested interest groups claim slow sales as evidence that EVs aren't going anywhere, and that they are more a phenomenon of political correctness and Government intervention over market forces.

I am not so sure.

Just after I past the LEAF, I took a trip to Lowes and spotted a GE Wattstation electric car charging unit for sale right there in the store. Then I checked my email and came across a story of a solar powered EV charging unit down the road from my hometown.

My point is not that slow sales figures don't matter. But rather that in these extremely early days of mainstream EV adoption, we should be keeping our eyes primarily on the growth of infrastructure and the increasing diversity of market offerings than we should on individual units of sale.

Before the interstate system was built, car ownership and use were a fraction of what they are today. Before there was widespread cell networks, ordinary people used landlines and laughed at London yuppies and their gigantic phones. (I assume they did the same for New Yorkers on this side of the pond.)

Slow sales figures are a disappointment, but they are not a death knell.

There will, of course, come a time when that changes. Electric vehicles will have to take off at some point in order to justify ongoing investment. Whether and when they do will depend as much on oil prices and the state of the economic recovery as they will on the marketing or design of electric vehicles themselves. But it's a sure bet that increased infrastructure and a slow but steady exposure to the technology can only help pave their way.

Electric Car Sales Are Slow. Does It Matter?
The slower than expected sales of early EV models has some commentators arguing that consumers don't want them. But we may be focusing on the wrong things.

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