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Detroit auto show: electric okay, but not necessarily right away


DETROIT (awp/afp) – Electric cars “will end up being the only option”, recognizes Tim Stokes, a visitor to the Detroit auto show who still plans to “wait as long as possible” before abandoning the gasoline vehicles.

Like this employee in the telecom sector, many consumers who come to visit the show are still hesitant.

Admiring a new gas-powered Ford Mustang, he says friends in the car industry advised him to wait 3 or 4 years for the industry to “work out the problems”.

Are there enough charging stations? Are the higher prices justified? Is the production of batteries not harmful to the environment? So many questions that consumers ask themselves.

Justin Tata thinks that “internal combustion engines are living their last days”.

But the young man does not plan to buy a car of this type for at least five years, or even ten, because he wonders about the recycling of batteries.

The prominence of electric cars at the Detroit Motor Show, which ends on Sunday, nevertheless shows that they are no longer a niche product.

Driven to address global warming concerns, and encouraged by government policies, automakers have introduced electric versions of their most popular models.

The right price

Chevrolet has thus highlighted an electric pickup (the Silverado) and two SUVs (the Blazer and the Equinoxe), available to order, for deliveries scheduled for 2023.

Ford has unveiled an electric version of its successful pickup, the F-150, and launched a new SUV, the Mustang Mach-E.

According to a survey carried out this year, some 14% of Americans say they would “definitely” buy an electric vehicle if they needed a new car, while only 4% in 2020.

But industry experts point out that a real transformation of the American fleet will take years, in particular because of prices: an electric car costs on average nearly 67,000 dollars, according to the firm Cox Automotive.

Manufacturers are also experiencing difficulties in the supply chain and are worried about the future availability of certain materials, such as lithium or cobalt.

Don Lamos, who works for a manufacturer, had ordered a Lightning, but reconsidered his decision when Ford raised the price above the bar of 80,000 dollars, not to be crossed to benefit from a tax credit of $7,500.

With his wife Janice, they now consider the Chevrolet Equinox, marketed from 30,000 dollars.

“If they maintain that price, then great,” he said. “But I don’t know if they will reach their production targets for next year, we’ll see.”

“Not so clean”

The couple are sure they want to go electric, to save money and out of environmental conviction. But they’re not sure they want to spend that much now when batteries are likely to get better.

Others are also held back by the lack of charging stations.

Many electric vehicles promise to travel almost 500 km on a single charge, but the distance decreases depending on the charge.

“When you need gas you can find it around the corner. I don’t think there are enough stations for a car like this,” said visitor Carlos Rubante of the Lightning. . His wife, Rebecca, further notes that the couple go a lot “by the back roads” to go skiing.

US President Joe Biden has earmarked $7.5 billion for the construction of bollards. During his visit to the show, he assured that they would soon be “as easy to find as gas stations” all along the highways crossing the United States.

Finally, major unknowns around the production of these cars remain in the eyes of consumers.

Beyond battery recycling, the consequences of the all-out extraction of materials, such as child labor in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, worry Cristian Dambo Damboiu, who works for an automotive subcontractor.

“If you take all that into consideration, they may not be as clean as they look,” he says.

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