Despite rising gas prices, all-electric cars haven’t sold as well as manufacturers had hoped. Range anxiety, a scarcity of charging stations, and the high cost of lithium-ion batteries have turned off many consumers. Says Mike Omotoso, a senior manager at the research firm LMC Automotive: “When families look at the big picture, gas-powered cars are still a lot cheaper than electric ones.”
But the landscape is changing. The number of public charging stations is expected to quintuple this year to 12,000, and the cost of producing electric car batteries is falling rapidly. Electric and hybrid car sales, particularly in urban areas, should boom. Experts think 1.3 million such vehicles (about 8% of the total market) will be sold in 2019, up from 2% today. In 30 or 40 years? “We might have an electric vehicle in every other driveway,” Omotoso says. And city traffic could smell a whole lot sweeter.
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This story is from the April 9, 2012 issue of Fortune.