Leaders sometimes ask why we write so much about electric vehicles. There aren't that many on the market, few sell in decent numbers and most of them are money-losers.
But here's the thing: They are coming.
Companies have announced plans to bring more than 100 plug-in vehicles to the U.S. market in the next five years—well within the planning horizon of a responsible dealer. And for our readers who work at global suppliers and auto makers, the technology is of immediate concern as Europe, China and other huge markets push more aggressively to limit emissions.
Does that mean we're at the cusp of a revolution that changes everything Americans know about making, selling and buying cars? Maybe not.
There's an axiom of journalism that grew out of the Watergate scandal that is absolutely fundamental to business news: Follow the money.
Auto makers are putting a big chunk of change and product development talent into EVs. Volkswagen alone is planning to almost $37 billion on electrification over the next five years.
If this is where companies are putting their cash—earned from selling trucks or raised from Wall Street—we're going to report on it. Whether it turns out to be brilliant or a disaster (or something in between), we'll have a record of what the expectations were at the time so we can compare later against the actual results. That's part of the role of journalists.
Another part of journalists' job is to challenge the sunny assumptions of news makers and executives trying to raise money from investors. Last month, we devoted a special section to examining the nation's charging network and kicked it off with a front-page story about the challenges faced by EV drivers to find working chargers.
More fundamentally, EVs seem to be bad business—for now, at least. They cost about $10,000 more to make than a gasoline-powered auto, which pretty much guarantees that all but the priciest ones will be money-losers. That may change in the coming decade, but it's going to take several years of significant progress to reach parity in cost and performance.
Electric cars hold a lot of promise for cleaning the air in our cities and preserving livable temperatures on this planet we share. They seem to do more for a company's image and short-term stock price than for the bottom line. But if companies are putting tens of billions of dollars into this technology to pump out dozens of models, you can bet we'll be paying attention and writing about it in the pages of Automotive News.