By looking at the new vehicles displayed at the Detroit Auto Show, it becomes apparent how the manner that electric-vehicle concepts are introduced have evolved – from being glitzy in the past years to being less flashy and more realistic. What automakers are playing up are the high-tech internal-combustion engines. Dozens of hybrids and EVs were presented at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show by German car companies. Analyst David Leiker of Baird Equity Research said that during the latest Detroit show, there was “less electrification hype.” He cited two major reasons.
One is that EVs and hybrids are no longer novelties. Secondly, the payback period for a hybrid (much less an EV or plug-in) has become longer amid the improving efficiency of refined gasoline engines and the relatively stable price of gasoline. The fuel-efficiency of advanced gasoline engines rivals that of hybrids, according to Susan Cischke, a group vice president at Ford. She pointed out that the EcoBoost engine has “fuel economies that approach hybrids.” She said that when looking at the performance, it’s noticeable that an oil-based product “can still do as well as with a hybrid."
Even those who were firm supporters are now being cautious about electrification. General Motors Vice Chairman Steve Girsky said that it will be May or June before it can be determined just how far this technology would go and if the plug-in hybrid technology in the Chevrolet Volt has staying power. For the long term, automakers will continue to promote different forms of electric drive. Unfortunately, consumers have not been so enthusiastic about electrification. Hybrids – the most inexpensive and most-familiar form – have remained at 2 to 3% share of the U.S. market.