When I run the usual calculations, I can easily see that EVs are just not economical in the USA due to cheap gasoline. With gas at less than $3 per gallon, EVs just cannot compete due to the high upfront battery prices.
However, if one runs the calculations at $6 or $7 per gallon, things change heavily. If a car travels 11,000 miles per year (about a 40 mile commute per day plus some weekend driving), gets 25 miles per gallon, and pays $6.50 per gallon then it will cost (11000/25)*6.5 = $2860 per year in gasoline costs to drive the car. If you subtract some $310 to pay for the electricity, that is about $2550 per year is fuel savings. There will be even more savings due to lack of oil changes and maintenance of an engine filled with moving parts and other liquids but I’ll ignore that since it is difficult to quantify.
$2550 per year is a very significant savings amount. In 5 years, that would be $12750 . . . that could be enough to cover the cost difference between an EV and a gas car if the EV. It would certainly be enough if the government threw in a several thousand dollar tax credit.
Thus, it would seem that EVs should become acceptable in Europe. But they haven’t. Why?
So, I’ve come up with some theories . . .
Consumer acceptance. They are unfamiliar with EVs. Or people just don’t want the limited ranges and long charge times. well, the former can be remedied with education. And the latter can be remedied with PHEVs like the Chevy Volt.
The EVs are just not available yet. Except for a few expensive EVs like the Tesla, EVs have just not been available. The Gee Whiz has garnered some sales in the UK due to the congestion charge. Perhaps when the Think City becomes available again, the Leaf is introduced, and the iMiev become available those cars will sell. Or, if the limited ranges and long charge times are an issue, the eventual European version of the Chevy Volt (the Opel Ampera?) will sell.
The comparison is just not apt since the Europeans already drive very efficient small cars. High gas prices have caused very efficient cars to be the norm in Europe such that the 25 mpg example in my calculation above is just not proper. European cars often get mileage in the 30 to 40 mpg range.
The high cost of electricity in Europe also tilts the above equation. Europeans pay way more than the average $0.11 per kilowatt hour in the USA. Thus, the equation does not yield such a large advantage for EVs.
Europeans just don’t drive nearly as much. They do not commute 40 miles per day. They have shorter or no commutes. They use public transport or live close enough to walk or ride a bike.
I guess a combo of all the above has been the issue. Some of the issues can easily be address. Consumer education will be easy. Some more government incentives would be good. But a big thing I’d recommend is a significant rebate or time-of-use metering from electric utilities to EV owners. Electric utilities LOVE EVs. They mostly use power during the middle of the night when utilities have huge amounts of excess capacity. Thus, EVs help electric utilities operate more efficiently. And Europe has moved heavily into wind and solar power. Both of those utilities suffer the problem of being intermittent . . . they only provide power when the wind blows and the sun shines. And electric power is generally a ‘Use it or lose it’ commodity . . . you need to user the power when generated or else it just goes to waste since it cannot be stored. But storing electricity is exactly what EVs do. Thus, EVs will greatly help with the usage of wind and solar. I believe Denmark, one of the European nations with the highest deployment of wind turbines, has moved forward with very significant incentives to EV buyers.