In a State of the Union address packed with nods to cleantech, President Obama’s call for the United States to become the first nation with 1 million electric vehicles on the road – and to do it by 2015 – could easily have been heard and then forgotten. But the administration is apparently serious about the goal. Vice President Biden built a day-after-the-SOTU visit to an Indiana advanced battery plant around the EV initiative, and the White House released a fairly detailed outline of how it hopes to meet the challenge.
The administration noted that the president actually began talking in 2008 about this goal, and that the Recovery Act pumped scads of money into advanced vehicles – including $2.4 billion for battery and electric drive component manufacturing, and for electric drive demonstration and infrastructure. The result, the White House said, was that battery costs in 2013 will be half what they were in 2009, and “the United States will be able to produce enough batteries and components to support 500,000 plug-in and hybrid vehicles and will have the capacity to produce 40 percent of the world’s advanced batteries.”
But the White House said more investment is needed. In his next budget, the president will call for the $7,500 tax credit for EVs to be turned into a point-of-sale rebate. He also will seek a 30 percent hike in support for vehicle technology R&D and a new Energy Innovation Hub, with the goal of developing a battery that will go 300 miles on a single charge. And he wants to expand a program that hands out grants up to $10 million each to communities each “on the basis of their ability to demonstrate concrete reforms and use the funds to help catalyze electric vehicle deployment.”
And if all else fails, there’s one sure way to pump up EV sales: have the government buy them. The White House noted that the General Services Administration “is preparing an initial purchase of 100 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are anticipated to be delivered in 2011.” That alone puts the United States one-thousandth of the way toward that million goal.