Auto-industry marketers are stepping up efforts to tout electric cars and plug-in hybrids to regulators and consumers, but at a gathering of industry technologists here, senior auto-company executives offered a sharply skeptical view of electric cars, predicting they will remain a marginal part of the U.S. market well into the next decade.
In presentations Tuesday and Wednesday at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, senior auto-industry executives in charge of technology strategy, research, and regulatory issues delivered the same message: Barring an unforeseen breakthrough that significantly drops the cost of automotive batteries, fully electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles are likely to remain confined to a niche of under 10% of the market through 2025 and beyond.
“By 2025, we see battery electric vehicles still with too long a payback, and inadequate range,” said Joseph Bakaj, vice president for powertrain engineering at Ford Motor Co.
Sam Winegarden, executive director of powertrain-engine engineering at General Motors Co. made a similar point with a chart comparing the amount of energy delivered by a given volume or mass of fuel. On his chart, lithium-ion batteries, used in electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and GM’s plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, were ranked close to zero compared to gasoline and diesel fuels, which delivered the most energy for the least amount of weight and cost to the consumer.
“The rumored death of the internal combustion engine is premature,” Mr. Winegarden said.