I came across this on the Freakonomics blog. The gist of the article is that even though we've been trying to produce electric vehicles that meet consumers needs for over a century, we're finally on the verge of making it this time.
There are still two main issues that will prevent EV's from becoming mainstream:
1) Charging time - if I run out of gas, it takes me 5 minutes to fill up (expect in NJ, where for no apparent reason, I'm not as qualified to pump my own gas as the part time high school junior, so I have to wait for him to attend to all the other customers before he gets to me). If my battery runs dead, it takes several hours to charge up again.
2) The biggest problem is cost - Anyone who has purchased replacement batteries for their power tools can attest that the batteries cost almost as much as buying a brand new tool. According to the chart referenced in the article, only one of the upcoming plugin vehicles costs under $40,000 - and that vehicle will likely include a battery lease so who knows what the actual cost of Nissan's Leaf will be.
If economy (in terms of how much it costs to transport me around) were my primary concern, I'd purchase a small 4 cylinder gas vehicle for at least $25,000 less (the savings would be even greater if I'm financing the vehicle, since I'd be paying less interest since I'd be borrowing less).
Suppose I only get 20 MPG in said 4 cylinder vehicle (most economy cars will get at least 25, but lets be conservative here). Even if gas went up to $5.00/gallon, if I drove 10,000 miles per year, the $25,000 I saved (not counting the interest saved) would get me 10 years worth of gas. This is even under the assumption that the electricity used to charge the vehicle were free (which it most certainly will not be).
Many will point out that government incentives and rebates will reduce the cost, as if government rebates make something economically viable. The bottom line is, government money still comes out of our pockets. The bottom line is that electric vehicles will drain our nations economic resources far more than gasoline vehicles - regardless of who pays the bill.
NOTE: This is not to say there will NEVER be an electric vehicle, but $40,000 vehicles are not the way to go. Battery prices are not going to come down as the technology has gone pretty much as far as it goes under the known laws of physics. Until someone comes up with a cheap way to store electrical energy, that can quickly be replenished AND is portable, it's not going to happen.