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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The flurry of high-profile electric vehicle rollouts lately makes it easy to look past a big problem for the sector: tepid consumer demand means it's unclear when the EV age will begin in earnest, at least in the U.S.

Driving the news: Several recent stories underscore how drivers remain cautious about ditching gas pumps for plugs — even as automakers make big bets on bringing a slew of new models to market.

Why it matters: Year-end sales data tells the story of a sector struggling to find footing once you look past the big year by Tesla (which by the way saw its valuation hit $100 billion in trading yesterday before receding).

  • This Los Angeles Times story, citing Edmunds data, notes that 325,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, down from 349,000 from 2018.
  • “The number of battery-electric models available more than doubled last year, but EV sales didn’t budge much. That’s troubling,” AlixPartners' Mark Wakefield tells the paper.
  • Sales also slumped badly in China, the world's biggest auto market, starting in the middle of last year when the government slashed incentives.

The intrigue: Bloomberg points out that Tesla saw record sales last year, but cautions that the Silicon Valley company's success isn't spilling over into the wider EV market — yet.

  • "Look at every other corner of the U.S. auto industry — the world’s most valuable automaker, dealers, consumer surveys and market forecasts — and a more ominous picture emerges," they report.
  • A growing number of models will be fighting for space in what will remain a small market for a while. Jeff Schuster of the firm LMC, quoted in Bloomberg, says of the EV future, "It’s a long road and there definitely could be some carnage along the way.”
  • A Wall Street Journal story this week features pessimistic comments from Subaru officials.

What we're watching: Whether the sluggish sales and policy headwinds in the U.S. and China are enough to substantially change long-term global forecasts.

  • The research firm BloombergNEF studies the EV future especially carefully and tends toward the bullish side, seeing major growth as battery prices fall.
  • Its last big outlook projected that annual global passenger EV sales will reach 10 million in 2025 and 28 million in 2030. The next one arrives in May.

Go deeper: Electric vehicles face an uncertain policy landscape in 2020

Go deeper

Updated 43 mins ago - Economy & Business

Hybrid work now dominates the knowledge economy

llustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, most knowledge workers are in hybrid work arrangements, partly remote and partly in-office, a new survey finds.

By the numbers: 58% said they now work this way, in a survey of around 10,000 knowledge workers from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan, conducted last November by Future Forum, a research group backed by Slack.

Rents hit all-time high

Data: Zumper; Chart: Axios Visuals

The national median price of a one-bedroom rental apartment in January was up 12% year-over-year, to $1,374 — an all-time high, per Zumper, an online apartment rental site.

Why it matters: Inflation is taking a bigger bite out of people's paychecks these days not only in food and gasoline, but also in housing costs.

A pandemic victim: Ethical supply chains

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Over the last decade, global companies have put in place elaborate policies to ensure their suppliers protect worker safety and human rights. They're struggling to comply with those policies in the pandemic.

Driving the news: COVID-era disruptions have caused a spike in noncompliance with health and safety rules, according to new data from Qima, which audits supply chains.