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"Always with you, what cannot be done"

Most would agree that U.S. President Barack Obama's goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 is ambitious.  But with the first modern electric vehicles like the 2011 Chevy Volt and 2011 Nissan LEAF EV selling out their low-volume of pre-orders, and with competitors like Ford and Tesla Motor Company waiting in the wings with upcoming offerings, it seems possible.

However, a panel of government, industry, and academic experts opines that despite that optimism, the goal is likely impossible to be reached without major changes.  The panel was held at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington Indiana. 

The panel's report is entitled "Plug–In Electric Vehicles: A Practical Plan for Progress" [PDF].

John D. Graham, Dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU sums up the report's sentiments, stating [press release], "President Obama’s dream is appealing and it may be achievable, but there are big barriers to overcome before the mass commercialization of electric vehicles will occur."

To put things in perspective, at expected 2015 volumes, 1 million electric vehicles would likely be around 0.4 percent of the vehicles on American streets, at most.

Some environmental groups were quick to attack the report.  Roland Hwang a San Francisco-based blogger [blog] with the National Resources Defense Council's Transportation Program is cited by The Detroit News as stating that the figure is feasible.

Whether or not environmentalists like Mr. Hwang realize it, the report is likely less of an effort to knock EVs, but more of an effort to appeal to the government and public for more funding.  That is evident by the fact that the panel responsible for the report contained representatives from Ford (who is preparing an EV), from the Center for Automotive Research (an industry group whose reports have argued that the government needs to provide greater funding to meet fuel efficiency targets), and the International Council on Clean Transportation (a global warming advocacy group).

Many of the panel's members seem designed towards this end; take the panel's chairman, former Ford Motor Company executive Gurminder Bedi comment -- "A successful national program for electric vehicles will require an unusual degree of cooperation between industry and government, and a clear focus on the needs and concerns of consumers."

The report does offer some seemingly accurate insight into some of the critical problems/challenges facing EVs -- namely high costs and the question of consumer confidence (resale value/reliability).

Regardless of the accuracy of the pressing need for more government funding of EVs, these groups are walking a dangerous tightrope.  As the saying goes "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" and if they don't lobby, they will likely miss out on a promising business opportunity.  On the other hand, if they lobby too hard, they risk alienating the U.S. public and facing backlash from the U.S government.

The report comes at an opportune time, when President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are trying to push a new EV incentives bill through U.S. Congress, which would, among other things, change the $7,500 tax credit to an instant refund and expand the quota of EV refunds per automaker.  The bill, sponsored by Michigan Senator Carl Levin (D) would cost taxpayers $19B USD over 10 years.

In that regard, what on the surface might appear a report running counter to the Obama administration's vision, is likely a calculated effort on the administration and auto industry's behalf to try to sell the need for more funding for "green vehicles" to members of Congress and to the public.

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RE: Okay here we go...
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 2/3/2011 11:23:56 AM , Rating: -1
I agree with you, if it were a luxury item. It is, however, a benefit that inures to us all since we reduce the global demand for oil (notice I didn't say reduces US demand for foreign oil) and therefore takes cash out of the pockets of hostile regimes. I think we all benefit from that since we potentially could reduce military spending if we didn't need to secure scarce resources.

I know, we need some form of energy to power all these electric vehicles, but whatever form it is, it can be managed centrally much more efficiently.

Also, EV's are feasible for most domestic commuters, not many of whom either live in a city or live on a public transportation route. If you care to socialize the cost of expanding that domestic infrastructure, a la the EU, then we have another cost to replace the EV's.

RE: Okay here we go...
By Spuke on 2/3/2011 1:12:09 PM , Rating: 3
I agree with you, if it were a luxury item.
Explain why cars are not luxury items.

RE: Okay here we go...
By ebakke on 2/3/2011 2:46:41 PM , Rating: 5
I'd enjoy reading the reply of the individual you directed the question to, but here's the answer as I see it.... Because on average Americans have a broke-ass view of wants vs needs.

RE: Okay here we go...
By kattanna on 2/3/2011 3:04:03 PM , Rating: 2
Because on average Americans have a broke-ass view of wants vs needs.

too true. you do not need one to survive, hence it is a luxury item.

now i say that as someone who lives in los angeles, which could be argued as one of the most car centric cities around.

i lived through times that were hard for me $$$ wise and required me to walk, ride a bike, take public transportation, etc. my "life" didnt come to an end when i fell upon hard times, i simply had to adjust and focus on those items i truly needed, food, shelter, clothing, things of that sort.

thankfully it has been a couple decades since then and i do enjoy driving my 4wheel drive vehicle. it makes life easier and more enjoyable, for the most part, but it is not REQUIRED to live.

RE: Okay here we go...
By tng on 2/3/2011 4:52:02 PM , Rating: 2
Just to be a pain, we could all plant gardens, just outside the entrance to our cave where we roast any wild game we can club.

Really in allot of areas a car is a needed item. Just because you live in an area where everything is close enough to get to by bike, does not mean that we all do.

I find that Americans also have a very bad habit a generalizing based on their own personal circumstances. Not everyone lives in a Urban/Suburban area with bus service.

If you wonder about that go to google earth and enter 42, 02, 33 North by 118, 47, 59 West and tell me if a car is considered a need or a want by the person that lives there.

I grew up in this area and it is a far cry from any urban center that requires a whole different set of rules to live.

RE: Okay here we go...
By Alexvrb on 2/5/2011 9:22:34 PM , Rating: 2
Obviously. But a car (and the license to operate one) is not a RIGHT, either. So subsidizing it with tax dollars is idiotic - especially subsidizing a fancy new EV/EREV/PHEV car. If you want a car, and you can't afford a nice new one, buy used. Without taxpayer funding.

RE: Okay here we go...
By lolmuly on 2/3/11, Rating: 0
RE: Okay here we go...
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 2/3/2011 9:25:57 PM , Rating: 2
Public trans in many areas of the US is a joke at best, but thats because we prefer not to live in the dense cities but rather in the suburbs and commute to work. In other countries this is much less of an issue because their public transportation systems are far better. Alas because of the population density in the US, public trans isnt cost effective unless in major metropolitan areas.

RE: Okay here we go...
By quiksilvr on 2/4/2011 8:53:33 AM , Rating: 2
It's circumstantial. In cities like New York and DC, cars are a luxury and aren't strictly needed. But in cities like Phoenix or Los Angeles, where the public transportation isn't able to handle the population, it is an absolute necessity, especially if you work in the city.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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