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White House to fall short of 1 million EV goal by 2015

by Drew Johnson

The White House will likely fall short of its electric vehicle target.

In 2008 then-Senator Barack Obama made a pledge to have 1 million electric vehicles on the nation's roadways by 2015. Obama reiterated that plan after winning the White House in his 2011 State of the Union address. However, the White House's recently released "One Year Progress Report" of the President's "Blueprint For A Secure Energy Agend" reveals that goal probably won't come to fruition.

A confident President Obama stated last year that "with more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015." The President's plan assumed electric vehicle production capacity would stand at 1.2 million units through 2015 and that his 1 million unit EV target would "not likely to be constrained by production capacity."

Although the President was correct in assuming capacity wouldn't be the limiting factor in EV sales, a lack of overall demand will likely prevent 1 million electric cars from buzzing around the nation's roads by 2015. The Chevrolet Volt is selling at about a tenth of the Department of Energy's projected 120,000 units per year rate, and the Nissan Leaf isn't expected to hit annual sales of 100,000 units until 2014.

But rather than admit to defeat in an election year, the White House is simply changing the wording of its "Blueprint For A Secure Energy Agend". Instead of aiming for 1 million EVs in consumers' hands by 2015, the revised plan now states that "by 2015, the United States will be able to produce enough batteries and components to support one million plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles." However, that change seems a little unnecessary since the previous plan said electric vehicles would "not likely to be constrained by production capacity."

Given the early stages of electric vehicle technology, the President's 1 million unit target was essentially doomed from the onset. Manufacturers and consumers are still working through the shortfalls of electric vehicles, with a mass-market solution not likely to be available for several more years. The White House's misstep also illustrates that the government doesn't have the power to dictate market demands.

But the outspoken right has also had a hand in at least somewhat limiting the demand for electric vehicles. The Chevy Volt has been transformed into a political punch bag as the result of the federal government's bailout of General Motors. The right has also inaccurately portrayed the Volt as a rolling fire hazard championed under the Obama administration.