By on February 8, 2011

In an apparent response to a report detailing the challenges facing President Obama’s goal of getting a million plug-in vehicles on the road, the DOE has released its own report [in PDF here] arguing that the goal is, in fact, achievable. The main thrust of the argument is encapsulated in the table above,

Reaching the goal is not likely to be constrained by production capacity.  Major vehicle manufacturers have announced (or been the subject of media reports) that indicate a cumulative electric drive vehicle manufacturing capacity of over 1.2 million vehicles through 2015.

Ipso-freaking-facto. Done deal, right? Er, no. After all, GM has not confirmed that it will try to build 120k Volts starting next year. In fact, the Bloomberg story cited by the DOE actually says

GM now is working with suppliers to raise 2012 capacity from an earlier target of 60,000. It may not build that many if parts aren’t available or demand isn’t strong enough… Randy Fox, a GM spokesman, declined to comment on production plans. He said he didn’t know how many people have ordered a Volt or how long they will have to wait.

But hey, that sounds good enough for, well, government work. What with Obama’s policy apparently relying on the Volt to make up about half of the volume of plug-ins needed to meet his million-by-2015 goal and all. Meanwhile, Fisker has delayed production of its first car already, and has no in-house manufacturing experience, making its leap from 0-50k units over the next two years more than a little improbable. As for the prospect of Think’s City EV (proud recipient of NHTSA’s first EV recall) selling 20k units considering it’s starting pricing at $34k-$40k (for a tiny, 100-mile-range BEV), well, we wouldn’t bank on it. EV production numbers have consistently been optimistic, and are continually being revised (typically downward). Using them as evidence of the attainability of a political goal seems like a recipe for a one-way trip to “the trough of disappointment.

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26 Comments on “DOE: Obama EV Goal Is Possible (If You Believe The Hype)...”


  • avatar
    vww12

    Well, cellulose-to-fuel was so possible that Range Fuels cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia got a $76 million grant from the US Dept of Energy, plus $6 million from the State of Georgia, plus an $80 million loan guaranteed by the U.S. Biorefinery Assistance Program.

    It shut down last month.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Should I have known that this is the last year of Tesla Roadster production?

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      I’m not sure I knew it had officially entered production.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Good one, M1!
       
      Also, Volt selling in Prius numbers? I don’t think so! And speaking of the Prius, isn’t it going to be a plug-in at some point soon, so its numbers would dominate this table? (That’s the only way I would consider one.)

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      With $7500 in incentives, the Volt could sell in those kinds of numbers.

      Remember, the gen 1 & gen 2 Smugs were subsidized, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Volt is $40k, so it would need $15k in incentives to bring it to $25k, which is still a bit high for a basic sedan. Maybe one would spend that for a nice Toyota, but not a Chevy; not enough former customers have forgiven GM’s sins against them.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Maobama wants a million cars, and his Energy Dept study indicates that he’s willing to subsidize each unit to the tune of $7500 (via a point of sell rebate).  Do the math.  Oh, and I forgot to mention, this doesn’t even include the 4.5 billion dollar subsidies to “industry” in order to produce batteries, etc.  It’s good to know that government is our friend…is our friend…is our friend…

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    More BS government math, in the government’s favor?! And more government subsidies?!  NO WAY!
     
    Let me see if I can modify these to something a bit more realistic….
    Fisker – 0
    Focus EV – 2000
    Transit EV – 1000 (might be possible)
    Volt – 50000 (prob still too high)
    Navistar – 6
    Leaf – 5000
    Smith – uh, 4.2?
    Tesla – 1000
    Think! – 1000
    Golf Carts 1,100,000
     
     

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    If they reached 5% of that number by 2015 I’d be shocked. No way, no how.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    I want to place a side bet with anybody who thinks Nissan is going to be selling 100K units per year of the Leaf EVER. I seriously doubt they’ll sell 100k here period. Unless the government buys them all.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      I assume Carlos would take that bet, if only for publicity sake.

      Nissan is supposed to build 4000 Leaf per month, so that’s 50k per year out of Japan. And they’re going to move production to the US, so I’m guessing Nissan’s good for 300k over the timeframe.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Now with GE on board, Volt production is just a twist of a knob or flick of a switch.

  • avatar
    thoughtchallenge

    With the recent announcement of a change in the Cathode technology going into the Volt, the GM predictions seem quite possible.  Consider that GM can now reduce the size of the battery, while keeping the range and reducing costs and weight at the same time.  As for the tax breaks it seems likely that the EV tax breaks will be pitted against the oil drilling tax breaks which have been around for years and the only way oil can get their tax breaks will be to shut up about the EV tax breaks.  Bottom line both oil drilliers and EV buyers will get tax breaks. 

    Don’t underestimate the Volt, the Leaf, Plug In Prius or anything Ford does.  The other companies, have to prove themselves and it is going to be a challenge to compete against these more formidable companies.

  • avatar
    mdensch

    Missed one.  The Smart fortwo Electric Drive isn’t on the list.  That one will probably sell over a million units all by itself.

  • avatar
    dwford

    That chart is the most hilarious piece of over-optimism I have ever seen! Good for a laugh, for sure. The only lines on there that look at a realistic are the Focus and Transit Connect.

  • avatar
    thoughtchallenge

    Just to be clear.  The Volt numbers are doable, because the Volt needs less battery and hence less materials which are in short supply.  Building the cars is not the difficult part which is getting enough batteries.  Nissan will need roughly twice the batteries for the same number of cars as the Volt.  Much of this depends upon ever improving battery technology, which store more energy from the same amount of raw materials.  

    The overall numbers are optimistic, but I think we are still looking at something above, 600,000. 

  • avatar

    Americans like to support the underdog, see him winning against the big guy. There is perhaps one exception: the car industry. There, each time a small company tries to make it in the real world, it is looked at with pessimism and most of times laughed at. This could actually be the subject of a TTAC post under “What’s wrong with this picture?”
     
    The numbers showing the Volt production look more like they were written by the government without consulting GM. They look even more striking sitting just under the modest Transit Connect ones. Next year GM will sell 150 Volts for each Transit Ford will sell? Really?
    Maybe the Ford numbers are so low because Ford knows something: they don’t have to pay back loans.
    I hope Tesla, Fisker, Coda ( I wonder why they are not on the list) and some other young companies will make it (even without reaching the numbers on the list) because we need some fresh thinking and a new perspective on how to design and build cars, also a new perspective on how to look at and treat the consumers.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Yet another inane government policy. Do they even know if the nation’s aging and fragile electrical grid can support that much EVs charging every night with 240v chargers? Do they make any kind of investment to beef it up?
     
    Wait, the government owns a lot of vehicles, some 600,000+ vehicles. If they intend to convert nearly all of them to EV’s, that will make the goal somewhat more achievable, though still rather unlikely.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Supply or sale? Big difference. Perhaps mandates from the government to buy these electric toys in certain areas or states? CA comes to mind.
    “Sorry, we don’t sell regular cars or regular gas in LA, unless you’re a famous personality we saw in People magazine. We do have a nice silver Volt over hear that needs some love”
    How about plans for disposing of all those batteries? Dump them where?
    If Volts end up with major issues what then? GM doesn’t have a great track record with new products, Nissan is better, Toyota seems to be best of the bunch. If headgaskets on the Volt, tranny issues on any of them, or any common failure strikes a manufacturer will go broke covering repairs, right after efforts to blame the owners fail as well.
    These are expensive cars that are supposed to reduce our dependency on foreign oil AND eliminate the need to drill domestically but won’t save consumers any money. Oh, almost forgot that global warming thing since it’s 10 degrees outside today. Is the electrical grid ready for this? I don’t think Texas is, maybe Mr. Me should reconsider his opposition to coal fired power plants and talk to his supporters about nuke alternatives. Solar and wind don’t cut it.
    Lost in all this is the economics of this madness. Sure, there will always be buyers of expensive bad ideas but basing public policy on these moonshots is why we need to seriously reconsider the direction we are heading (again) in 2012.

  • avatar
    Motorhead10

    My favorite part of the chart is the actual 1.2 million vehicles. So we have a little cushion there. “we’ll make it easily. BUT, ok, we’ll humor you and say Volt MIGHT NOT hit 120k next year. Or that the Fisker Nina won’t hit 75k in 2014 and the Pinta and Santa Maria can’t make up for the shortfall. We STILL make it to a mil silly rabbits.”

    Also seems to me, the govt likes to pull 100% increases out of thin air. Every vehicle on the list doubles year over year at some point – except the Newton.

  • avatar
    VespaFitz

    Considering how many people buy appliances like the Accord and the Camry every year, they’ll buy whatever they’re told to.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Jerome10 numbers look about right to me, but I’d still take the under if I was betting.
     
    However they forget the Telsa crossover which should be available in 2014. That will sell in the millions alone… oh sorry I was talking about the COST not the number produced.

  • avatar
    gator marco

    I suppose if someone put out a press release that the Chinese were going to buy the Grand Canyon for a billion-gazillion dollars and move it to Beijing by 2015, that would be enough for the gubmint to declare all our money troubles to be over.

  • avatar
    charly

    I miss the Miev and it would be a surprise if the prius didn’t go plugin so the goal does sounds more than reachable


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