DOE Admits Electric Vehicles Are Failing to Meet Expectations

Published April 7, 2013

In yet another embarrassment for proponents of government picking winners and losers among energy technologies, the Obama administration pulled back from its prediction that automakers, with the assistance of billions of dollars in federal subsidies, will sell 1 million electric vehicles to U.S. consumers by 2015.

Flagship Green Technology
In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama said automakers will sell 1 million electric vehicles to U.S. consumers by 2015. Obama heralded this as an example of the success of government subsidizing “green” industries with taxpayer dollars.

Sales Are Floundering
The U.S. Department of Energy, however, now says the Obama administration is unlikely to meet this goal. Instead of focusing on meeting Obama’s predicted timetable, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in a February speech at a Washington DC auto show, the Obama administration is focusing its efforts on promoting electric vehicles and lowering their prices.

At the present pace of electric vehicle sales, only 310,000 will be on U.S. roads by 2015. And sales at even that slow pace—less than one-third what Obama predicted—may be a pipedream. Nissan, which has sold more electric vehicles in the United States than any other automaker, is cutting back its investment. Similarly, Toyota in September 2012 scrapped plans to build thousands of electric vehicles and instead announced plans to build just 100 electric mini-vehicles.

Vehicles Fail to Deliver
“The reality is that consumers continue to show little interest in electric vehicles, or EVs, which dominated U.S. streets in the first decade of the 20th century before being displaced by gasoline-powered cars,” Reuters reported.

“Despite the promise of ‘green’ transportation—and despite billions of dollars in investment, most recently by Nissan Motor Co—EVs continue to be plagued by many of the problems that eventually scuttled electrics in the 1910s and more recently in the 1990s. Those include high cost, short driving range and lack of charging stations,” Reuters observed.

More Subsidies?
According to the Congressional Budget Office, by 2019 the federal government will have spent $7.5 billion in taxpayer money to subsidize these failing electric vehicles. The Obama administration is seeking to increase those subsidies by an additional $5 billion.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.