While the latter term definitely sounds cool, few have adopted the concept. Edmunds Auto Observer reports that the two battery-powered vehicles and 29 hybrid models now on the market remain below 2 percent of U.S. auto sales.
"Were it not for Toyota, there'd barely have been a July hybrid market to track," writes John O'Dell for Edmonds.
Sales up in mid-summer
Sales crept up in July over the previous month but still remained below the same period a year earlier at about 18,000 hybrids and EVs. O'Dell says the high price for premium technology doesn't sell well in a soft economy, especially when small cars with conventional engines are getting such good mileage. Much of this may be due to availability of electrics, of course.
Sales forecasts show different scenarios. Two provided by going-electric.org indicate slow but steady growth over the next decade.
Going-electric says the most pessimistic forecasts predict that sales of electric cars, including plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles, reach 3 percent of all new cars while the most optimistic show the market segment growing to about 15 percent.
While the site said sales through 2020 largely depend on government incentives for consumers and car makers, it did predict that sometime during the new decade EV and hybrid sales "will rapidly rise to a near 100 percent."
Some goals fall short
A new report by Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research says that sales expectations by President Obama of 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the streets by 2015 "appears to be well beyond what the actual vehicle market is likely to be."
Pike Research does say the annual market for plug-ins should grow to about 1.3 million vehicles by 2017, and that the overall market, with hybrids, should grow to 2.9 million. Not bad.
The U.S. Department of Energy hopes to make sure local governments are ready. DOE unveiled a couple of programs designed to help cities, counties and states design permits, provide inspectors with training and speed inspections
Standardize charging station regs
The idea is to create a standardized process and "create more favorable conditions for EV businesses, including infrastructure providers and installers, to thrive as more plug-in electric vehicles come to the market," officials said in a press release.
One of the serious downers for electric car drivers is range anxiety. Most of the cars get less than 100 miles. While no big deal for a set commute, throw in an extra trip, a wait in traffic and the driver starts worrying if he'll have to do the Fred Flintstone and push with his feet. No Yabba Dabba Do there.
However, there is some help in that department. Ariel Schwartz of fastcompany.com put together a piece on phone apps that highlight nearby charging stations. Of course those are few and far between, but more are promised.
Expect more EV sightings. I've seen Nissan Leafs when I'm least expecting it and passed a Chevy Volt down by Pixley on Highway 99.
Photo: Porsche 914 EV conversion on sale for $9,000.