The auto industry today has begun to launch a broad array of promising battery-electric vehicles that are roughly competitive with those that burn fossil fuels in terms of capabilities and price.
The debate over the wisdom of converting the world's automotive fleet from fossil fuels to electrical propulsion is now largely moot: Emissions from personal transportation needs to be reduced dramatically, so if people are going to continue owning vehicles, evermore of them will need electric drivetrains. The investments have been made and the industry's direction is clear. Both types of vehicles will remain on sale for some time, but the trend lines are in focus.
The vehicles are arriving — but consumers to buy them are still missing.
In 2020, automakers collectively sold a little more than 300,000 battery-electric vehicles in the U.S., according to the Automotive News Data Center. That marks a 19 percent increase over 2019, despite the pandemic. But it isn't any more than the U.S. sales of just the Honda CR-V.
Spurred by regulations in certain markets, such as China, and anticipation of stricter rules in the U.S., the industry has plunged headlong into electrification projects that may start to pay for themselves this decade.
But if a significant number of Americans are going to plug in their vehicles instead of filling a tank, then the federal government is going to need to help beyond the dwindling offer of spiffs to spur sales.