Electric vehicles: How we get there
During the State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated a goal that surely set the hearts of electric car makers revving.
"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.
Putting that many on the road would reduce dependence on foreign oil and lead to a reduction in oil consumption of about 750 million barrels through 2030, the administration has said.
How to reach that goal? The Philadelphia Auto Show had three of the answers: the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi 2012 "i." And then a passel of hybrids and other "green technology" cars to boot.
So how do we get there? The day after President Obama's address, Vice President Biden went to Greenfield, Ind., where he toured the Ener1, Inc., factory, which produces advanced lithium-ion battery systems for electric vehicles, grid energy storage and industrial electronics.
The company was awarded a $118.5 million grant from the Department of Energy to expand its production. Employment at its Indianapolis facilities will go from its current 336 to more than 1,000 by 2013.
Biden also outlined the president's three-part plan to reach the goal. It would include transforming the existing $7,500 tax credit to a rebate. In his budget, the president plans to propose dedicating research and development funds for electric drive, batteries, and energy storage technologies.
Finally, to provide an incentive for communities to invest in EV infrastructure and remove regulatory barriers, the President is proposing to provide grants to up to 30 communities -- up to $10 million each -- that are prioritizing advanced technology vehicle deployment. This could be through regulatory streamlining, infrastructure investments, vehicle fleet conversions, deployment of EV incentives (e.g., parking, HOV access) partnerships with major employers/retailers, and workforce training.
I wonder if that means that if everyone in, say, Cheltenham, Pa., switched to an electric car, they'd get extra money. A group of Cheltenham residents have been investigating how to survive as a community after "peak oil," and their efforts have made them an official "Transition Town".
Meanwhile, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, an industry group, says they're ready.
"The question that we're being asked is -- can we do it? The answer is yes, but it will require that industry and government take the critical next steps together. And if we work together to do that, a million vehicles will be just a milestone on the way to an electric transportation sector," said EDTA President Brian Wynne at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show last week.
The association released its own plan, called "Driving Forward: An Action Plan for the Electric Drive Era".
"The nation is at an energy policy crossroads. Electric drive technologies -- those available today and those on the horizon -- can help the U.S. increase its energy security, spend more of its energy dollars domestically, expand competitiveness and create jobs -- while creating a healthier environment," Wynne said. "The policies we are recommending will accelerate the opening of the electric drive era and ensure U.S. leadership in the effort."
(c) 2011, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.