Gas prices would have to rise to at least $4.50 a gallon, and battery technology would have to improve, in order to prompt Americans to purchase electric vehicles on a large scale, according to a new study by Harvard University researchers.
Gas savings don't yet offset the higher costs of electric and hybrid vehicles. Electric vehicle engines cost $4,819 more, and hybrid vehicle engines cost $5,377 more to purchase and operate, based on 2010 costs, the researchers said.
Battery technology would have to improve because electric vehicles are still hampered by limited range--the number of miles the car can be driven between recharging.
"One can argue that such anxiety is irrational, since urban drivers, on average drive less than 20 miles per day, but no one has ever asserted that consumers base their car purchases solely on rational calculations," the study authors wrote.
The equation may change in coming years as price of battery technology falls and gas prices go up, the authors conclude.
It's too early to say whether car insurance costs will be higher or lower for electric cars than for gasoline-powered vehicles. Some experts predict lower car insurance rates for electric vehicles because they likely will attract stable, safe-driving buyers, similar to early adopters of hybrid vehicles.