U.S. unlikely to reach goal of 1 million electrics on the road by 2015, report says

The hybrid and plug-in electric cars at the 2011 Washington Auto Show are leaps and bounds ahead of the first cars to ditch gas dependence, but that doesn't mean the average driver is ready to hop on board.
The hybrid-vehicle market took eight years to pass 1 million cars sold.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 8:59 PM

President Obama's goal of putting 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road within four years is unlikely to be met because automakers are not planning to make enough cars due to uncertain consumer demand, auto industry leaders concluded in a report being released Wednesday.

The finding is based on the manufacturers' announced production numbers and an analysis of consumer demand.

The first two plug-in cars from major manufacturers, the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt, went on sale recently, garnering widespread attention for the energy-efficient vehicles.

But the panel of industry experts who authored the report concluded that expanding sales within four years to meet the milllion-car goal is improbable.

"There is a big challenge in going from marketing the Leaf or the Volt to early adopters to selling them to mainstream retail car-buyers," said John Graham, dean of the school of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, which conducted and funded the 80-page study. "Until then, the automakers' production plans will be quite cautious."

The study panel was made up of a Ford executive, a federal energy scientist and representatives from an environmental group, academia and an industry research group. Input was also received from Nissan and General Motors.

In his State of the Union address last month, Obama said he is aiming to get 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

"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," he said.

The federal government is already offering incentives as high as $7,500 for consumers to buy plug-in cars and putting up $2.4 billion for battery and electric-car manufacturing.

But even with that encouragement, the public's adoption of electric vehicles could be slow.

The $32,780 Leaf and the $41,000 Volt cost far more than a comparably sized car with a gas engine, which typically sells for $20,000. The battery range of the Leaf, which is all electric, is less than 100 miles, and places where batteries can be replenished are sparse at best. Also, it can take hours to recharge.

As a result, many automakers have balked at making the investments to mass produce plug-in vehicles.

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