Electric Cars Try to Shed ‘Niche’ Label

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Honda Fit EV

It has been a rough week for electric cars.

Tesla Motors disclosed that it needs to raise more capital because the launch of its new Model S luxury sedan is going slower than expected. A top Toyota Motor Corp. executive said vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are more likely to be viable by 2020 than battery electric cars.

And the Congressional Budget Office said federal tax credits that subsidize plug-in car purchases up to $7,500 aren’t an effective way to reduce gasoline consumption or cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

These setbacks come as big car makers are gearing up to push a significant number of new hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles onto the U.S. market. The question is whether the latest group of electric vehicles will offer enough features and reliability and an attractive enough price to move electric cars beyond niche status.

By the end of next year, the number of battery electric cars on the market could double to 20, and the number of hybrid models could grow to about 73 from 42 now, says Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, a Washington, D.C., group that represents the electric-vehicle industry.

Read more in Eyes on the Road.

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