Ghosn's Bet: 10% of World Will Drive EV's in 10 Years

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn could not have been any clearer about how many people will buy electric vehicles 10 years from now.

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"I'm betting 10% of the global buyers will make a rational decision on what to drive. And I think I'm being conservative at 10%," said Mr. Ghosn. He made that prediction while discussing Nissan's future over dinner Thursday night.

I caught up with Ghosn in Los Angeles as he starts a nationwide tour introducing the automakers new electric model, The Leaf. The car will come out late next year, and while Nissan has yet to announce a price for the car, Ghosn is promising it to be competitive. "People are suspicious if you are selling the environment, but if you can make it (buying an EV) financially reasonable, they will buy it."

Ghosn says Nissan is seeing heavy interest among younger buyer because they believe driving a car with zero emissions is "the right thing to do." Ghosn drove home his point about public demand to drive green with a question he asked and answered. "What is the public perception right now (when it comes to emissions impacting the environment)? Something is messed up and we have to change it," says Mr. Ghosn.

While I completely understand and applaud Carlos Ghosn pushing a line-up of electric vehicles, I'm not sure I buy the projection that 10% of the world will drive electric cars ten years from now.

Just look at the expected growth of EV's here in the U.S. The consulting firm J.D. Power estimates the industry will sell 50,000 electric cars in the U.S. in 2015.

If that projection is close, and overall annual industry sales are 14 million, then EV's will make up less than 1% of sales.

Nissan Leaf
Nissan Leaf

It all comes down to when you believe the mass market will see the value in owning a car that goes 100 or 150 miles on a charge.

When will the public agree to pay the estimated $500-$1,000 needed to make their homes ready to re-charge their cars?

When will the utility companies around the U.S. upgrade their grids so they are ready for us to re-charge every night?

Ghosn knows there are hurdles. But he believes governments around the world and car buyers around the world will be pushing for adoption of electric vehicles. To quote Mr. Ghosn, "The battle over emissions has just started."

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