DETROIT — David Champion, Consumer Reports' chief automotive tester, looks around the auto show here and is impressed with “the electrification” presence.
“Everyone seems to have something,” he says of auto makers displaying electric vehicles and advanced hybrid models at the North American International Auto Show.
Such vehicles draw a lot of attention and will attract a niche segment of environmentally conscious buyers “who want to do the right thing,” Champion says.
But he thinks a vast majority of consumers, at least in the near future, will opt for cars with conventional internal-combustion engines.
One reason is gasoline engines are so good. They should be. They have more than 100 years and billions of dollars of research and development behind them.
“What we have done with gasoline engines over the years is phenomenal,” Champion tells Ward's.
Another reason most people won't flock to buy alternative-fuel vehicles is that they cost more and offer less, he says.
For EVs and the like to gain full customer acceptance, they must match the functionality of gasoline-powered vehicles.
They don't right now, Champion tells Ward's. “Buyers of an alternative-fuel vehicle today will get something that is less versatile than the car they just traded in.
“They will be buying something that functionally is not better,” he says. “Maybe it is emotionally better and environmentally better, but not functionally. On top of that, it costs more.”
He cites EV's range limits and the hours of required recharging time, compared with “getting into a gasoline-powered car, turning the key and off you go. And you don't see your available energy drain because you're running the heater.”
Champion insists he is not down on EVs. “I'm just being a realist.”
He sees more EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids in the future. And advancing technology eventually will make them more all-round vehicles.
“But for now, the value and superiority of fuel-injected gasoline-powered engines with multiple transmissions is the way to go.”