We know that as costs for batteries have come down, the costs of plug-in cars have followed suit.

Ultimately, Price Moves Metal

Ultimately, Price Moves Metal

When was the last time the MSRP on a strictly fossil fuel vehicle came down by $5,000 like the Chevrolet Volt did this month?  Or the $4,000 off the Focus Electric?  Or the $6,400* off Nissan LEAF(*-with a little de-contenting)

The result of these significant price drops?

The Chevrolet Volt is going to set an all-time record this month for EV sales (at more than 3,000 units), and the new 2013 Nissan LEAF has sold 10,400 units in its first 5 months on the market (2,080/month) - that's 600 more than it sold in all of 2012.

But at what cost do plug-in vehicles reach parity with the traditional internal combustion engine?  To make the "top 20" vehicles sold list in the US in any given month, the Chevrolet Volt is still about 12,000 shy - so really, not that close.  And further still, at what price can the plug-in make the gas vehicle irrelevant?

Tony Seba, an energy expert from Stanford University, who has published a book called Solar Trillions - which spoke to the opportunities ahead in that solar (well before the cost of solar plummeted of late), is working on a follow-up - but with some pretty specific predictions for electric vehicles as well.

“The tipping point for the mass market to move from internal combustion engines to EVs is between $US250 and $US300/kWh. Once it gets to $US100/kWh, it is all over. I think we will get to $US250/kWh by 2020. By 2030, when batteries are at $100/kWh, gasoline vehicles will be obsolete. Not on their way out, obsolete,” said Mr. Seba to RENew Economy, while noting that he thinks that "mass migration" to EVs will start between 2018 to 2020.

Tesla Model S - Next Green Car - Executive Winner

Tesla Model S - Next Green Car - Executive Winner

It is interesting to note that Tesla has pretty much said they are right around the $250/kWh mark now using a version of off-the-shelf cylindrical laptop cells from Panasonic.  (Almost all other electric vehicle makers have chosen automotive-specific/larger pouch batteries which are said to hold greater long-term cost saving potential - but just not yet)

So how has it gone for Tesla? Are they at a "tipping point" against the ICE?

Tesla does indeed outsell all their peers in the high end luxury category (including the likes of the Mercedes S Class, Audi A8 and the BMW 7-Series), and also sports a $20 billion dollar market cap - based mostly on their future outlook.  So the author seems to have built a case.  Especially since Tesla also is being penalized by being a small OEM with little to no established infrastructure.

The author says of Tesla specifically:

“Basically, EVs were supposed to be expensive and underpowered and weak and 50 years away. Tesla showed all that was wrong. The EV will do to oil what solar will do to coal, nuclear and gas. EVs are a disruptive technology, there is no doubt about that."

As for Mr. Seba's forte - solar energy, he says that by 2030, it will make the fossil fuel industry pretty much redundant.

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