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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 wolrah on 2/3/2011 9:06:01 PM , Rating: 2
How about this: It's not black and white!

When there is both funding and competition for an industry, in general it's best for the government to stay out of things. Not always, but most of the time, to the point that the default option should always be government inaction.

That said, there are problems that we would be better as a society if we could solve them, but the required investment is large and has an unknown time period before a return is seen. I believe alternative energy in general is one of those problems.

Liking that the government is trying to give the auto industry a push in a race they're far behind in doesn't immediately mean we want to use all government-approved media.

RE: Okay here we go...
By wolrah on 2/3/2011 9:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
To be clear though, I think the goal of 1,000,000 EVs by 2015 is absurd. They're barely practical as a second vehicle and only an idiot would have one as a primary vehicle. Battery technology has gone a long way since the GM EV1 experiment, but the range is still too short and the charge time too long. That's what we need investment for though, to work away at those problems until they're solved enough for these vehicles to become viable replacements for combustion-powered vehicles in more than just big city commuter conditions.

RE: Okay here we go...
By hathost on 2/6/2011 4:22:19 PM , Rating: 2
Don;t forget to mention that we have been seeing an increasing number of blackouts and brownouts in the US and if we were all driving EV's the entire power grid would basically collapse. It takes something like 3KwHr for 20hours to charge a Leaf and for example if you wanted to quick charge it in 20 min it was estimated to take 63KwHr at like 60A or more. hen think about waiting 30min and a "Fueling Station" and how much time that would take with everyone lining up to charge their cars.

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