We may already be closer than you think. Analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance have predicted that 20 years from now, more than half of new cars sold will be electric
"We see a real possibility that global passenger cars have already passed their peak," said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport for BNEF
But for electric cars to really go toe-toe against gasoline-powered cars, a few things need to happen first – and they will not happen everywhere at once.
Going the distance
Seth Goldstein, an electric vehicle industry researcher at Morningstar, predicts that he will have to pay for it, within 10 years, electric cars will average around 300 miles on a charge, which should be enough for most people's comfort. Currently, electric cars average about 200 miles on a charge, he said.
Since even 200 miles already far exceeds the amount most people drive in a day, the difference is mostly psychological. People are just getting used to getting more than 200 miles out of a tank of gasoline.
Longer range cars are coming, thanks to improvements in several areas. Better batteries can store more energy. Meanwhile, improvements in manufacturing are driving battery prices down, which allows car makers to install more battery cells without driving up prices too much.
Today, electric car batteries cost about $ 1
A different mindset
Car buyers will also need to think differently about "fueling" their car. When buying a gasoline powered car, no one ever asks "Where am I going to fill the tank?" Gas stations are pretty much everywhere and it takes only a few minutes to fill up. With electric cars, it's different. Charging the battery is not something people usually pull over to do as a task in itself.
Even if electric vehicle makers are able to shorten the time it takes to charge a battery, it will not normally be a quick stop. Ideally, the car will be parked for extended periods of time, like in the garage, at the office or at shopping centers or motels.
But people will not buy electric cars unless they feel they can make an occasional long cross-country trip without worry. That's where highway chargers at rest stops come in.
"It's critical to put those highway chargers in place at appropriate distances so it's not overbuilt," said Pasquale Romano, CEO of ChargePoint, which runs a network of electric car chargers throughout the United States . "And you've got to build that a bit ahead of the consumer demand because, optically, they need to see that they can get over the hump mentally."
And the chargers are getting faster. Swiss industrial company, ABB, claims its chargers will be able to fill the car's battery pack to 80% in under 10 minutes. This also depends on cars being able to accept a charge this quickly, though. Cars, themselves, will vary in how fast they can charge. Charging speeds are already becoming a bragging point for automakers.
More choices, better prices
Beyond that, there are more electric vehicles to choose from.
In the car business, there's always a tricky interplay between what customers want and what's available. For example, crossover SUVs are really popular with car buyers these days. That's partly because there are so many crossover models out there. That was not true a few years ago. The result is a huge increase in crossover sales – both because customers want them and because dealer lots are carpeted with them.
Right now, someone who wants to buy an electric car has very few options. But as more competitors enter the market, electric vehicle sales will naturally increase since customers are more likely to find an electric car that fits their basic needs and tastes.
Up until recently, however, electric cars have not held their resale value as well as gasoline-powered cars.
That's beginning to change, said Eric Ibara, a resale value analyst with Kelley Blue Book. The key factor seems to be range. Electric vehicles with a longer driving range hold their value better, he said. The Chevrolet Bolt EV, for example, holds its value as well as comparable gas-powered Chevrolet cars
The challenge will be getting customers to see that. Corporate fleet buyers understand it easily, he said, because they tend to look at their cars and trucks as business investments.
"Private customers, usually look at the price day of purchase, and then they forget about the rest," said Stackmann
The time is fast approaching, said Goldstein, when electric cars will be a good choice for consumers even without any kind of additional purchase incentives.
"If you take charge of infrastructure, and you take incentives away, just looking at when [electric vehicles] will be as good as [internal combustion-powered car]that will happen in about 10 years," he said. ] And when that happens, electric cars will stop being such a novelty and start to take it over.