Electric Vehicle (EV)

By the end of this decade almost half of all cars being manufactured, not only in the United States, but around the world, will be either hybrid or electric.

“All manufacturers, all brands are already moving toward that goal. This is unstoppable, not only because there are laws in place for that, but because it is the wave of the future,” said Ricardo García, president of the United Group of Auto Importers (GUIA, for its Spanish acronym).

García’s assertion seems as farfetched as President John F. Kennedy’s statement, some 60 years ago, about putting a man on the moon “in this decade.”

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…,” said Kennedy in his speech at Rice University in Texas, in 1962.

And, while today’s motives spurring the world toward electric powered vehicles –pollution, global warming, endangerment of the environment – are decidedly different from those of President Kennedy, they are equally pressing, if not more.

But in Puerto Rico that goal seems even more difficult to achieve than anywhere else.

According to García, hybrid and electric car sales account for only one percent of all new cars sold in Puerto Rico. In absolute numbers that means that, from the 107, 992 new cars sold in the island up until last October, less than 1,080 were hybrid or electric.

GUIA’s president explained there are three kinds of environmentally friendly vehicles: 1. the hybrid that recharges its battery while it runs on gas; 2. the hybrid that has both a gas and an electric engine and needs to be plugged-in to recharge and 3. the fully electric car.

“You have to realize that, while some brands only sell hybrids, supply is not that great here. Plus, supply in general has been affected by the worldwide shortage on electronic chips,” García cited as reasons for low sales.

While García did admit hybrids are currently more expensive than gas powered cars, he did not consider price to be necessarily a reason to affect Puerto Rico’s market. But that is precisely one of the cons about going hybrid.

The average hybrid car could be as much as 20% more expensive than a regular gas-powered car, according to car shopping guide website www.edmunds.com. The same applies to electric vehicles (EVs). In the case of plug-in hybrid or part-time electric models the price could be even higher.

But the higher price tag on both hybrids and EVs could be offset by the fact that federal and state governments offer significant tax incentives to their buyers.

And, while these vehicles have incredibly low running costs and require less maintenance, maintenance could be very expensive when needed. For instance, replacing a rechargeable battery could cost between $1,000 to more than $6,000 depending on make and model. Last year, a Japanese auto maker offered an eight year / 100,000 mile-warranty –which ever came first – for its hybrid batteries.

Some of the main concerns among consumers is battery range, the lack of readily available charging points and charging times. These can all be summed-up in the term “range anxiety,” which translates into: how far can I drive before running out of power and where I’m I going to charge up?

For García, as more and more buyers in Puerto Rico opt for hybrids and EVs the market will move to provide solutions to these concerns.

“More efficient batteries and speedier car models will be developed, and market share will keep costs in check,” he said.

“Hybrid and electric cars are going to become more and more cost efficient as more manufacturers compete for the market. We only need to wait a few years to see how the [new car] market will go electric,” García anticipated.

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