Show season is upon us, which means there will be a ton of interesting new concept vehicles and freshly announced production models for all of us gearheads to ogle over. Another sometimes overlooked feature of auto shows like the one that's currently taking place in Geneva is the presence of top executives of major automakers who are uncommonly willing to share their thoughts. Such is the case with Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who told a group of reporters that electric cars are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to the greening of our transportation industry – just not any time soon.
In the short term, VW, which recently teamed up with Toshiba to develop electric drive systems, is focused on increasing the efficiency of the tried-and-true internal combustion engine. According to Winterkorn (and others), electric vehicles won't have a majority share in the market for another 15-20 years. Perhaps it's not surprising to hear this projected timetable from Volkswagen, which is recognized as a leader in modern diesel technology.
Still, we think he's got a point. Currently, of the millions of automobiles sold worldwide each year, a minimal percentage are powered by electrons. Even after new vehicles like the Chevy Volt come online, it will take a number of years before their combined sales even begin to approach that of the gasoline or diesel engine. Whether or not it will take 20 years we don't know, but it's definitely coming.