We all know that there is a hardcore group of consumers out there chanting the mantra of "No plug, no sale!" Okay, well, at least a few of you. The problem is that, like commenters on the internet, the loud fringe makes most of the noise, but often actually represents a very small percentage of the total population. For the rest of the car buying public, the realities of choosing a new car go well beyond the ability to "refuel" from a plug in the garage. This is the reality that Toyota, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and others have to face in planning for future electric vehicles.

How many people are actually willing to pay the price in purchase cost, range, and utility for a plug-in vehicle?

While Nissan and Mitsubishi are (publicly at least) very bullish on EVs, Toyota apparently remains more skeptical. Bill Reinert, Toyota's U.S. national manager for advanced technology, told a National Academy of Sciences panel in Washington that the company doesn't expect PHEV demand to top 50,000 units a year, and the total could be as low as 3,500. So far, the argument goes, in most real-world testing, PHEVs are showing relatively little benefit to justify the significant extra battery cost. Unless plug-ins are designed as such and able to operate through most of their range on electric power (unlike conversion PHEVs), the real world benefits may only be visible to dedicated hyper-milers.

Related GalleryEVS23: PHEV Prius prototype

[Source: Bloomberg]