From the initial heady enthusiasm for electric cars, the future of electric vehicles now seem less rosy with the public not adopting the cars in droves and carmakers less eager to invest and push the cars to the mainstream.

Changing Customer Perceptions

At the most recent Geneva Auto Show most carmakers had turned the spotlight back on cars that were more technologically advanced but still the same traditional internal combustion engines. Why and how did electric vehicles lose favor from consumers and carmakers alike and are electric vehicles still the way of the future?

Understanding Adoption

One of the major factors that has prevented the widespread adoption of electric vehicles is the current limitations to electric vehicle technology, with most consumers balking at the cars’ limited range. Most EVs have an average range from 100 to 200 kilometers and consumers fear that they might be stuck in a deserted highway with their car batteries dry.

Barriers to Adoption

However, range anxiety may have been overemphasized by potential car owners and could possibly be resolved with by planning. Most car owners do not commute more than 100 kilometers a day in the city anyway and drivers that plan to travel farther can plan their trips carefully. A study by the U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board found that after three months range anxiety in EV owners’ dropped by 35% as they learned more about their cars. Drivers drove more efficiently and at least 83% of drivers said that their cars met their daily driving needs.

Technology Improvements in EVs

Improvements in technology could extend the range of electric vehicles.  Toyota, who in September was hesitant about the electric car market, had developed a prototype battery using a sodium-based chemical compound that will boost the range of EVs to 500 kilometers to 1000 kilometers on a single charge. Other Japanese companies are also working on sodium-ion prototypes while three Danish companies are working together on a Modular Energy Carrier concept that uses bio-methanol to charge the battery and push the car to get the 500- mile range.

Tesla on the Rise

Meanwhile, Tesla Motors’ Model S car could very well be the EV that makes the mainstream notice and buy electric vehicles. The all-electric sedan was named by MotorTrend magazine as its car of the year following similar recognition from Automobile and Yahoo. The Model S was considered by many to be attractive and had a range of 265 miles that alleviated range anxieties consumers might have felt.

Inroads to the Future

There are still major obstacles to a wide spread adoption of electric vehicles. Lack of infrastructure, such as charging stations, in many countries as well as the prohibitive price point of electric vehicles make them a hard sell outside advanced countries. Electric car enthusiasts and proponents should not be discouraged about its future. At one point internal combustion engines were criticized as unreliable, limited in their range and far too expensive for the general public.  There were no gas stations and repairing the cars were challenging but as time went on, the infrastructure evolved and Ford and the assembly line made cars more accessible to the general public.