Electric cars have been faulted for their higher cost and relatively poor performance when compared with conventional cars. But more fundamentally, the problem lies in the fact that these versions “do not deliver the promised environmental benefits”. In addition to that, electric cars are estimated to release as many as “60 times more lead/km of use relative to a comparable car burning leaded gasoline” (Lave, 2005).. So, these disadvantages pertaining to its energy efficiency make electric cars economically unviable for most consumers. In summary, it could be inferred that Electric vehicles would emit lead-based toxins to aggravate the ozone layer. These lead emissions would damage ecosystems as well as human health. Even with gradual advancements in lead-acid based battery technology and stricter controls on re-processors and smelters, mass manufacturing of these batteries would still discharge huge amounts of toxins into the atmosphere. Hence,
“Electric vehicles will not be in the public interest until they pose no greater threat to public health and the environment than do alternative technologies, such as vehicles using low-emissions gasoline. Nickel-cadmium and nickel metal hydride batteries are much more expensive and highly toxic; they do not appear to offer environmental advantages. Sodium-sulphur and lithium-polymer technologies may eventually be attractive” (Lave, 2005).
But, in terms of economics and efficiency, electric automobiles do show a marked improvement over conventional modes of communication. Taking this fact into consideration The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) policy has drawn up a mandate “that requires the sale of electric automobiles to reach 10% of the state’s automobile purchases by 2010” (Ochoa, 1997. While the CARB acknowledges the potential health hazards that could result from this legislation, the economic advantages offered by these new vehicles is very alluring. For instance, the manufacturing of electric vehicles is estimated to create 40,000 new jobs across the state. Further, demand for these vehicles is expected to rise as well and it also provides the technology and a pool of skilled workers required to develop the market base. Hence, it is reasonable to presume that governments across the world will facilitate the manufacturing and innovation in this market (Ochoa, 1997.
Thus, there will be a demand for these cars when certain barriers are overcome. One such barrier is the availability of state of the art facilities for refuelling and recharging stations. The difficulty in bringing about such a result is that no business enterprise will make such huge investment and create required infrastructure without assurance that there will be demand for its services. Similarly, automobile manufacturers “will be loath to make the investment in electric-car development without similar expectations”(Wittenberg, 2001). In other words, what we have here is a problem of coordination. None of the parties involved might be willing to take a risky action that would be beneficial if and only if other parties did likewise.
There are some less obvious advantages too in encouraging electric car manufacturing. One such is the cascading effect any technological improvement will have on its allied industries. For instance, civilian air travel and the associated rise in productivity across the world would not have happened if not for the government support in terms of R&D funding for developing military aviation. Hence,
“Once knowledge has been created, the benefits of its use cannot be restricted to the supplier of the resources that are required to generate it. This is, in fact, a case of positive externalities: the benefits of R&D to the public typically exceed what any private party who is considering undertaking it can capture. Likewise, R&D efforts on electric cars would benefit the society in other ways as well” (Wittenberg, 2001)
Some positive developments are already to be seen. European car manufacturers lead the bandwagon of electric cars. For instance,
“One of the leaders is Peugeot, which has put out a car using nickel-cadmium batteries, with a range of 50 miles. Having successfully tested 500 of its cars in the city of La Rochelle, the Peugeot-Citroen group believes there will be around 100,000 electric cars in Europe by 2000 and plans to grab a quarter of the market; it produced more than 4,000 in 1996. Renault, meanwhile, sold 215 of its electric conversions in the first six months of last year. It will make 1,000 cars this year, and expects to continue increasing output in 1998. On a smaller scale, Fiat and Volkswagen are selling conversions, which they are reportedly making at a rate of about one a day, in Swiss cities.” (Mone, 2007)