Obama administration getting strangely less specific about their electric-vehicle goals

posted at 5:21 pm on February 4, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

The day before he announced that he will be departing his post at the Department of Energy last week, Secretary Chu was talking a big game about the Obama administration’s ongoing plans for electric vehicles — but was somewhat less specific than usual about the administration’s once wildly ambitious and now apparently erstwhile goals, via Bloomberg:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said it “remains to be seen in the future” whether about $16 billion in available U.S. government loans to develop alternative- technology vehicles will be disbursed.

Providing money for electric-vehicle development was a component of President Barack Obama’s goal of having 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015, a number well above current forecasts.

The goal is “ambitious, but we’ll see what happens,” Chu said after touring displays at the Washington Auto Show…

Chu said he wants to bring the cost of buying a plug-in five-passenger vehicle down to $20,000 to $25,000. Reducing the weight of electric cars will be part of the way to reduce costs, he said.

Why the “erstwhile”? Because, despite the Obama administration’s most sincere wishes and taxpayer funding-intensive efforts to the contrary, the world market simply isn’t ready to accept electric vehicles and the ostensible benefits they offer as reason enough to put up with the impracticalities and costs, reports Reuters:

Recent moves by Japan’s two largest automakers suggest that the electric car, after more than 100 years of development and several brief revivals, still is not ready for prime time – and may never be.

In the meantime, the attention of automotive executives in Asia, Europe and North America is beginning to swing toward an unusual but promising new alternate power source: hydrogen.

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. …

The public’s lack of appetite for battery-powered cars persuaded the Obama administration last week to back away from its aggressive goal to put 1 million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015. …

“Because of its shortcomings — driving range, cost and recharging time — the electric vehicle is not a viable replacement for most conventional cars,” said Uchiyamada. “We need something entirely new.”

Obvious lesson? You cannot force a particularly technology to succeed in the free market and fit in with our national infrastructure, simply because you have the “disposable” taxpayer dollars available to make such “investments” — and it is unwise to try. Not only do you encourage wasteful rent-seeking and subsidy-chasing, but you discourage real price efficiency and divert capital and resources away from less politically favored technologies with legitimate potential. …But I won’t hold my breath that this means they’re actually ready to give up on the relentless subsidies — not even a little bit.


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