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Global auto execs question the future of electric cars, survey says

Despite betting big on EVs, a majority of executives feel electric cars are doomed to fail.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: A ChargePoint electric vehicle charger is displayed during the Drive The Dream event at the Exploratorium on September 16, 2013 in San Francisco, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown met with California corporate leaders at Drive The Dream to discuss progress in the adoption of electric vehicles and workplace charging stations at businesses in the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Even as manufacturers crank out more and more electric vehicles, they remain skeptical of the long-term success of purely battery-powered cars.

In a recent survey of auto industry executives by auditing giant KPMG, it was revealed that their outlook on the future of battery EVs was less than sunny. Those polled cited infrastructure problems and long charge times as the likely killers of the current wave of electric cars, though whether that is indicative of entrenched thinking from longtime industry vets or a fair and frank exploration of the system is unclear given charging advancements by companies like Tesla.

Despite the negativity, OEMs are clearly taking the advice of the sages at Wu-Tang Financial and diversifying their bonds, because there has been a combined investment by these companies in BEV and hybrid technology in the billions of dollars.

Hybrids remain a safer bet in many consumer's minds, lacking the infrastructure requirements and lifestyle changes necessitated by fully electric vehicles.


The US has long been a driver of the kinds of environmental regulations that spur clean vehicle technology, though China is quickly becoming a leader in this field, seeking to move away from its image as a smog-choked, acid rain-doused hellscape. Several Chinese manufacturers have already vowed to remove internal combustion engines from their fleets in the coming years.

"There is no question that automakers are adapting to stricter vehicle efficiency standards around the world, and electrification is a big part of that equation even as manufacturers continue to squeeze MPG out of internal combustion engines," Gary Silberg, Automotive Sector leader at KPMG, said in a statement. "What's unclear is the value proposition for consumers, especially on vehicles outside of the high-end, premium market."

Range-extended EVs like the Chevy Volt may present an easier stepping stone into the world of electric cars for those without a highly developed fast charger network near them.

Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times

Auto execs aren't the only skeptics out there when it comes to electric vehicles. The KPMG survey also pinged 2,100 consumers in 42 countries in hopes of finding out where their car-buying currency might go in the next five years. The study suggested that fully 50 percent of buyers outside the US would go for a hybrid vehicle, while only 13 percent would commit fully to a battery electric vehicle. Inside the US, buyers are apparently still wed to the internal combustion engine with 54 percent of those surveyed planning to remain faithful to guzzolene.

This survey seems to paint a picture of the kind of tipping point we're at when it comes to electric vehicles. For many, the realities of EV ownership just aren't feasible; whether that's due to long commutes or lack of charging in their city, though as battery technology advances those limitations will inevitably become less of an issue. Hybrids are an easier pill to swallow, but the potential costs of replacing an expensive battery pack plus all the expense of maintaining an internal combustion engine can be a little scary.

We'll have to see where governmental regulations and natural resource scarcity steer us steer us in the coming years to see whether KPMG's results ring true.