Electric car makers have some major hurdles to clear before their products gain wide acceptance, but it's only a matter of time before consumers won't need gasoline-powered vehicles, said Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors.
"For the generalization of electric vehicles you really need three things," Lutz said. "You need cars that can go at least 300 miles on a charge. You need rapid recharging capability. And you need affordable pricing. So far, Elon Musk's Tesla has achieved two out of the three. They are a long way away from mass-market pricing.
"I always say that the electric car future is definitely coming, because batteries will accept more charge, the cost of batteries will come down, fast charging will happen," he said. "But the whole thing is five to 10 years away."
When customers can charge a car overnight to travel 400 miles and be in and out of a fast-charge station in 15 or 20 minutes, "at that point, who needs a gasoline engine?" Lutz asked.
However, he added that he would be surprised if electric reached 10 percent of the total auto market by 2025, or 7 million to 8 million cars.
With range anxiety a real problem, Lutz sees the half-gas, half-electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Fisker Karma gaining consumer acceptance. But a 400-mile battery range will alleviate most anxiety, he said.
Fisker's problem was that it "launched too soon" and was plagued by reliability issues, he said. "I think the car deserved to succeed, but it was half-baked." Lutz is reported to be in talks to buy Fisker, which filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.
Though long-term concerns about Tesla are lack of proprietary technology and pricing, design values and popular trends are spurring its popularity, according to Lutz.
"People are not buying electric cars because they want to save money," Lutz said. "Tesla is riding a wave of very favorable publicity, and people are buying the car because it's the cool thing to do."