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Killer Battery Eludes Electric Car Makers
CNBC.com | January 06, 2012 | 03:30 PM EST

While electric vehicles will continue to generate hype at the North American International Auto Show , today’s battery technology will keep the so-called EVs a niche product for years to come.

“I’m a skeptic about EVs,” says Greg Payne, VP of portfolio management with Toronto-based Greenchip Financial, a firm specializing in sustainable investment. “You’re talking about a premium product.”

The industry-standard lithium ion battery has plateaued in terms of capacity, and Payne says new technologies to stretch that capacity don’t look promising for the near term.

“Rapid charging is years away,” he says, and plans to swap out batteries at a service station along your commute is “not going to work” since no battery or car manufacturer can agree on a single format of battery.

While new EV models from FordMotor , Tesla , Mitsubishi and others are rolling into showrooms this year, expect EVs to remain a niche product for the next several years, says analyst John Gartner of clean tech research boutique Pike Research.

“We’ve scaled back our sales forecasts,” says Gartner. “It’s still looking like it’s not going to crack 1 percent [of total vehicles sales] until 2015.”

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