Electric cars and hybrids are surging in tandem with gasoline prices, which averaged $3.93 a gallon on April 3, approaching the July 2008 peak of $4.11, according to AAA. Toyota's Prius hybrid and General Motors' Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric car each had record sales in March. Nissan chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn repeated he's "bullish" that pure electric cars will capture 10 percent of the market by 2020.
"There are a lot of concerns today that the electric car is going to solve," Ghosn said Wednesday in an interview at the New York auto show. "People don't want to have to go to the gasoline station. They just want to fill their tank at home. They want to make sure they're not paying too much money for their gasoline bill every month."
Sales of the Nissan Leaf electric car will take off in August when Nissan begins producing it in the U.S., boosting output and possibly lowering prices, Ghosn said.
Ghosn's view of one in 10 cars being electric by 2020 isn't widely shared. LMC Automotive predicts 2 percent of cars in the United States will be electric by 2020. Add in gasoline-electric hybrids and plug-ins and the Troy, Mich.-based researcher's forecast rises to 9.2 percent.
Ghosn's forecast is "is way too optimistic," said Mike Omotoso, LMC's senior manager for power train forecasting. "Ten percent share for hybrids is achievable, but not for EVs. They will still be too expensive to become a mass-market product within the next 10 years."