Millions will choose electric cars, study says

Consumers across the globe will snap up electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles at a fast clip in the next five years, a study released Wednesday says.

The tally? About 3.2 million vehicles by 2015, growing at a compound annual rate of 106 percent, according to a report entitled "Plug-in Electric Vehicles" by Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research.

Not bad for a sector that has yet to materialize in showrooms.

Plug-in and battery powered electric vehicles "will complement, rather than displacing, the market for conventional hybrid electric vehicles,” said Pike senior analyst Dave Hurst in a statement.

Hurst said while electric vehicles, like hybrids, will be sold initially as compact cars, other models will follow. He said SUVs will soon follow. "Because of their low weight and good aerodynamics, smaller vehicles are far more efficient to better extend the electrically powered driving range, and the smaller vehicle segments also allow the use of a smaller, less expensive battery,” he said.

Hurst said China will be the largest market for electric vehicles, representing 27 percent of worldwide sales. He said the United States will consume 26 percent.

Chevy is expected to come out with the Volt this fall. The Nissan LEAF shows up in California and three other states in December.

Photo: Courtesy Electric Auto Association.