The Minneapolis City Council is moving toward a greener future by adding 25 charging stations for electric cars, but how necessary are the plug-in stations when electric vehicle sales are falling below projections?
General Motors spent more than $1 billion to develop the Chevy Volt, but only 20,000 have been sold since 2010. Though they're not the only game in town, some argue that installing charging stations will be a waste of money if they sit vacant. Still, there are others who argue that no one would buy an electric car without a place to charge up on the go.
"It feels good. Once you get good mileage, you just want to keep getting better and better," explained Phyllis Wiener. "It becomes a little bit of a game."
Wiener bought a Prius three years ago because getting 50 miles per gallon sounded pretty good -- until she found out she could do even better, that is. Soon, she converted to hybrid to run solely on electricity.
"I don't think people understand the possibility of electric vehicle technology," Shayne Berkowitz, of ReGo Plug-In Hybrid Conversions, told FOX 9 News. "I would say 75 percent of what we do is education around this technology."
Still, the electric-only car has been slow to catch on. When the Prius came out, Toyota couldn't keep them in stock, but the appetite for all-electric vehicles hasn't been as ravenous. With a limited range of less than 50 miles, reluctant buyers often express "range anxiety."
"You know, most of the driving those of us in the city do is within 50 miles -- but there are those times you want to go further -- and again, if we have plug0in stations, that would really help us," Wiener said.
That's exactly why the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency put up more than $200,00 for electric charging stations -- even if most may sit empty.
"It is sort of a chicken-and-egg scenario," said Fran Crotty, of the MPCA. "If we build the stations, that will build confidence for people that they will have a place to charge up their vehicle."
Privately, dealers admit that buyers ask a lot of questions about electric vehicles -- especially when gas gets close to $4 a gallon -- but if their goal is to simply save money, some are hesitant to pay a premium for hybrid or electric technology if they may never recoup the cost in gas.
"There needs to be a commitment to sustainability, to understanding the environmental impact," Berkowitz said. "If you can get 100 mpg or you can get 40 mpg but it's less expensive to get 40 mpg, what are you going to choose?"
In the end, the lack of the demand may say more about the buying public than the cars. Electric car owners like Wiener say buyers need to be committed to reducing dependency on oil.
"I think we're just a little behind the times on realizing we have to make a change away from gas vehicles," she said.