Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Is The Electric Car Push Oversold?

Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen speaks at the National Press Club
Getty Images

The comments this week by Audi of America President Johan de Nysschenabout President Obama's administration pushing electric cars is one that will no doubt get the attention of many in the auto industry. The message essentially comes down to this: While Washington may be in love with the idea of electric cars, there's plenty more that can be done with cars powered by diesel.

He's right. But I doubt that will make a difference.

De Nysschen is correct in his belief that it will be many, many years before electric cars truly pay off. Sure, there are going to be early adopters, and the number of electric cars will steadily increase. Plus, there is no doubt battery technology is improving and both the cost and performance of electric cars will become more attractive to buyers in the years to come. That said the true electric "revolution" on the road is still far off.

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With that in mind, I understand De Nysschen saying America would be better served pushing diesel technology. Especially with the relatively small percentage of people in the U.S. driving diesel powered cars and trucks. And since Audi is a leader in diesel technology, De Nysschen fully admits his company would benefit if the U.S. Finally embraced diesel.

All of that is true, but for a variety of reasons, expanding diesel will not be a cause Washington pushes. With the Obama administration, it's all about the electrification of cars and trucks. Just look at the number of start-up firms benefiting from government grants. And that's only going to grow.

Is the promise of the electric car being oversold? Maybe. What I think is being oversold is the idea America will plug in overnight. That's not going to happen due to infrastructure concerns, a. Limited supple of vehicles, and the fact we've spent 100 years fueled by gas. That's a cultural habit that won't change overnight.


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