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JD Power: Battery, hybrid-electric cars are overhyped

Plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles are over-hyped and won’t meet many car companies’ 2020 sales targets, according to global marketing information firm JD Power & Associates.

Battery-powered and hybrid-electric cars will only capture around  7.3 percent of all car sales by 2020, according to the firm. That means that electric car sales will only account for 5.2 million sales out of 70.9 million cars sold that year. Concerns about electric car looks, design, power and range were the largest holdout points for customers considering electric cars over internal-combustion vehicles, JD Power reports.

Most electric cars have limited range when compared to hybrid-electric cars — which use both an internal combustion engine and battery technology to improve mileage — and cars powered by internal combustion engines. Nissan’s leaf, for example, can only travel around 100 miles before it has to recharge. The supercharged Tesla Roadster can travel more than 200 miles, but it has a mammoth price tag that most typical consumers wouldn’t be able to afford — around $110,000 before environmentally-friendly credits.

Electric cars are typically more expensive than cars powered by internal combustion engines. The Leaf, considered one of the cheaper options for a plug-in electric car, costs around $33,000. The Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid-electric car, is another incredibly popular hybrid option but costs around $40,000. The price tags haven’t stopped the current niche market of electric car buyers — which are typically more educated and have higher incomes, according to the study by JD Power & Associates.

The U.S. government set an ambitious goal of having more than 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, which it said is on track to meet. Nissan also said it is on track to sell and deliver 20,000 Leaf vehicles by September this year, even through it has faced a number of production delays such as a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and electrical faults that prevent the car from starting.

But there is a chance that electric car sales could exceed that target globally if demand in China is more aggressive than originally expected. Sales of plug-in electric and hybrid-electric cars might have totaled nearly 1 million last year, or 2.2 percent of all vehicles sold, according to JD Power & Associates.

[Photo: Ed Callow]