Will the US Be the Leading Market for Electric Vehicles?

As industry leaders watch closely the consumer response to new electric vehicles, ideas are quickly taking shape in regards to where manufacturers should target their sales and production. While North American, European and Chinese auto manufacturers race to bring a viable electric car to market, the question remains, who will arrive first and where will the manufacturing centers be located?
A recent announcement that Think, Norway’s pioneering electric carmaker, will open a manufacturing plant in the US is an indication that the US may be overtaking Europe as more lucrative marketplace for the production of electric vehicles.

Think CEO, Richard Canny has stated, “The U.S. is quickly overtaking Europe as an attractive market for EVs and is an ideal location to engineer and build EVs” and he may be right. Think is currently in discussion with eight US states to determine where to build their new manufacturing facility which will initially employ 300 workers and will have a production capacity of 16,000 cars per year. Think’s technical center will also provide 70 additional jobs for engineers and electric drive specialists. Long term plans for this facility include employment for roughly 900 total employees and production capacity of 60,000 electric vehicles per year.
In addition to job creation and dealer sales, the migration of Think manufacturing to the US will also impact our national economy through contributing to a growing supply chain which serves the electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid car markets. Currently, Think is partnering with US battery makers Ener1, Inc. and A123 to provide compact, high-powered lithium-ion power systems for “TH!NK city,” which is Think’s flagship vehicle.
The TH!NK city is estimated at being capable of traveling 65 miles per hour and up to 112 miles per charge. Although numbers such as those are impressive in terms of what consumer options have been in the past, the question still remains as to whether or not those specs are enough to draw in US consumers. If the failure of China’s marketplace to embrace the F3DM electric car is any indication as to the possible future of the TH!NK city, the Norwegian-run company may have some more design work ahead of them before being able to capture revenue through US sales.
However, with talks underway with eight US states (including Michigan), a recent acquisition of $5.7 million in interim financing and loans available through the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, the arrival of a vibrant Think presence on the streets of America seems inevitable.
The question remains, will US consumers respond to an fully electric car that can travel 112 miles with a top speed of 65mph or, will they hold out for longer range and higher speed hybrid electric vehicles?

David received his undergraduate degree in Geographic Information Sciences from James Madison University and completed an M.A. in International Development at Clark University. With over 10 years of experience in the field of environmental sustainability, David has worked for organizations such as Environmental Defense Fund, USDA, USGS and the Smithsonian Institute.Currently, David is a NetImpact member and an MBA candidate at the Presidio School of Management where his research focus is on developing market incentives for investment in environmental sustainability.

6 responses

  1. It will be interesting to see if the US works for cars like the Think. Most people consider a bit a freeway driving to be normal, so a 65 mph top speed means the car would rarely be seen as a primary vehicle – this is probably more limiting than the range and I can’t imagine anything other than EV enthusiast purchases unless it is very inexpensive (under $10,000).
    If I were betting and we saw a permanent $5 or above gas price, I’d bet on extended range electrics as the first major penetration by electrics. If gas stays under $3, it is going to be a long time before anything takes off

  2. Steve, I think you’ve identified the three key components for assessing the electric vehicles: top speed, range and cost or, cost as it compares to alternatives. I’m surprised to hear you say that you think top speed is a bigger concern for folks than the range factor. For me, it’s the limited range. I drive a 1985 Mercedes so, I am use to sticking to 65mph.

  3. The misconception that you will not harm the environment when driving electric cars is false, electricity to charge you cars comes from burning fossil fuels. The misconception that you will save money on fuel and maintenance is false. You pay the saving upfront with $100,000 price tag. Then after 300 miles. It will take between 7 and 12 hours to charge you car battery overnight, and electricity is cheaper during no peak hours. They don’t mention that electric companies will be charging you more per watt if your electric consumption tops a certain level. So even electric car fuel will be more expensive.
    One day we will have solar electric cars powered with efficient and cost effective solar panels, Zero emission, fuel and maintenance
    To meet US emission standard, Mercedes diesel came with an emission filter that you change every time you change you oil, this with diesel approaching 100 mpg will reduce US consumption of oil, thus reducing pollution and save you money at the pump.
    Diesel will lower oil consumption and lower oil/ gas sales. So oil lobby will block the move to diesel. Elecric car is OK for Big oil since they own 2/3 of US natural gas.They whole elecric hype to benefit BIG oil, while diesel will benefit the people.

  4. Agreed, the source of the electricity is a critical consideration. However, measures to shift our sources are underway in the US. Now is the perfect time for US consumers to begin the transition to a new type of vehicle. Once EVs gain some traction in the marketplace, manufacturers will be incentivized to improve the technologies, providing shorter charge times, extended ranges and increased top speeds.
    I’m not sure where you got the $100,000 price tag from however, what I read is about 1/5 that for the Th!nk City…an expected $20,000 USD with an $80 – $90 charge per month for the battery lease.

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