By on March 12, 2012

“The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are.”

Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

At the High School I attended, progress reports were never a good thing. Halfway through each term, students who were averaging a D or lower would receive a print-out of their grade accompanied by a line from the teacher explaining how the miscreant in question was failing to live up to expectations. True to form, the White House’s just-released “One Year Progress Report” [PDF] on President Obama’s “Blueprint For A Secure Energy Agenda” includes some devastating evidence of abject failure. But unlike my post-progress report conversations with the parental stakeholders, Obama has a lot more to explain to voters than a simple “insufficient homework turned in.”

Just over a year ago,  in his 2011 State Of The Union, President Obama unveiled plan to stimulate “One Million Electric Vehicles By 2015,” arguing 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″

Shortly thereafter, his Department of Energy released a report that touted wildly-optimistic production goals for several pure-electric cars, concluding that

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.

Strong incentives, research and development, and assistance in establishing manufacturing and infrastructure is underway or planned. These activities directly support consumer demand of these technologies, and mitigate some of the uncertainty associated with the large-scale adoption of electric drive vehicles.

That argument became conclusively moot this year, when production of the Chevrolet Volt was stopped for the third time in its short lifetime, as unwanted cars piled up on dealer lots. Though the Volt has been defined as a symbol of GM’s bailout, it is even more politically significant as a component of Obama’s bold million-plugin plan. In last year’s report, the Department of Energy estimated that 120,000 Volts would be put on the road in the US this year, when the Volt hs actually only just broke 1,000 units sold per month for the first time in February. That 90% discrepancy between expectation and reality is crucial to Obama’s pledge, as the “1.2m production capacity through 2015″ that the DOE took for granted included some 505,000 Volts (at 120k/year from 2012-2015). With the Volt selling at 10% of DOE estimates, the entire goal falls apart (the next-closest vehicle, Nissan’s Leaf, isn’t estimated to hit 100,000 units per year until 2014).

Having seen the Volt’s underperformance coming, I’ve been wondering when the Obama Administration would recognize reality and admit that its goal was out of reach. But this being politics, you can’t just hand ammunition to your opponents. Admissions of failure must be couched in obfuscation and swaddled in unrelated good news. Which brings us to the just-released “Progress Report,” which is something like the polar opposite of landing on an aircraft carrier festooned with “Mission Accomplished” banners.

A sunny, upbeat document, the “Progress Report” introduces itself with wide-eyed optimism:

On the one-year anniversary of your Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, which outlined your goals for American energy, we wanted to present a report on the significant progress we have made. During the last year alone, we established new incentives to increase safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production; proposed the toughest fuel economy standards for cars and trucks in history; provided millions of Americans with efficient and affordable transportation choices; launched new programs to improve energy efficiency in our homes, buildings, public transit, aviation and roadway systems; and took unprecedented steps to make the United States a leader in the clean energy
race.

But if we skip ahead to the section regarding EVs, we find that all the sugary good news is just helping mask the rank scent of failure. So, how does a sitting president admit failure? It’s as easy as writing

“By 2015, the United States will be able to produce enough batteries and components to support one million plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.”

Notice the key difference: then, the argument was that government action would put a million EVs on the road, now the argument is that the infrastructure will be in place to meet the goal. Oh, and in case you’re a fellow ADD-sufferer, remember that the DOE determined just one year ago that

Reaching the goal is not likely to be constrained by production capacity.

In essence this report repeats the exact same thing. The difference is simply that a year ago, the President could pretend that the market would simply soak up whatever number of EVs the car companies (most of whom had received some form of government support) said they would build. Now even the most hardened partisan can’t maintain such obvious self-delusion, as the demand for EVs (the Volt in particular) has been proven to be well below expectations. This failure is made explicit in the Progress Report, which notes that

in March 2012, the President launched a clean energy grand challenge to make electric-powered vehicles as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered vehicles for the average American family within a decade.

In short, the message has gone from “thanks to government intervention, the future is now” to “thanks to government intervention, the future might be here in a decade.” Or, to quote a certain former presidential candidate, “whoops!”

Some might argue that this is a textbook example of government wasting money trying to affect the market, and a clear sign that the market is going to do what it wants regardless of our publicly-funded exercises in futility. Instead, President Obama is “doubling down” by requesting a billion dollars be spent on a “Community Deployment” scheme aimed at boosting demand for “advanced technology vehicles” through local partnerships, and tax credits for advanced technology vehicles be bumped to a maximum of $10,000. To be fair, the retreat from EVs is reflected in the new “technology neutral” approach, which doesn’t limit subsidies to EVs but

allow[s] communities to determine if electrification, natural gas, or biofuels would be the best fit.

But the proposed changes to the consumer tax credit [PDF] have some very vague and confusing stipulations, namely that

(1) the vehicle operates primarily on an alternative to petroleum; (2) as of the January 1, 2012, there are few vehicles in operation in the U.S. using the same technology as such vehicle.

The vagueness of those rules makes them hard to interpret, but it seems that clause (1) excludes high-efficiency, small battery plug-ins like the Prius Plug-In while clause (2) could well exclude natural gas vehicles (there were well over 100k NGVs on the road as of 2010). In which case, this policy is merely a continuation of the attempt to create a market for EVs (and since we’re talking disappointing technologies, possibly hydrogen cars). The community deployment scheme seems more technologically neutral, but is flawed in the extent that it assumes that local solutions will be more broadly applicable. Besides, most local governments with strong “green car” demand potential are already incentivizing public EV charging stations and the like. And don’t get me started about the fact that the government is even pretending that biofuels are a serious solution to either environmental or energy security concerns.

As gas prices go up, we could see EV and plug-in sales improve, but it’s clear that there won’t be one million EVs on American roads by 2015. Especially with policy appearing to shift towards a more “technology neutral” mode, there is a very real threat that the huge oversupply of natural gas could create a short term market for NGVs that could doom EVs for another decade or more. If the goal of Obama’s energy policy were to improve energy independence or help the efficient use of resources, this would be good news as it’s much easier and cheaper to build (and therefore, subsidize) NGVs than EVs (even without considering the low cost of natural gas itself). Unfortunately, we have already made a significant national investment in EV/battery technology, which satisfies yet another political constituency: environmentalists.

Without clearly communicated goals, government policies will never gain the credibility with markets they need to impact. And given President Obama’s track record so far, it’s clear  he needs to more clearly admit that his EV initiative has failed and express a clear set of goals for America’s transportation and energy sectors. Unfortunately, the fact that that he’s chosen to admit that the EV dream is over in such an oblique manner indicates that expecting such forthrightness would seem more than a little naive. All of which simply confirms that this issue, like so many others facing the nation, is no longer a question of policy, but of politics.

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55 Comments on “Blind Spot: Obama No Longer Dreams Of Electric Cars...”


  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Can’t have a free market making policy like that; there has to be a way to force a million people into electric vehicles.

    So now we inflate the dollar to such irrelevance that nobody can afford gasoline and triple the money handed out to those who buy electric cars. Problem solved!

    • 0 avatar
      roadsterguy

      The free market? The one where the cost of new roads and bridges are not exclusively built into gas taxes? The one where gas taxes don’t go into the additional healthcare needs caused by automotive air pollution? The one where gas taxes don’t pay for our military involvement in oil-rich countries? Transportation is fraught with externalities.

      I’m all for the free market, but lets not pretend any first world country’s transportation system is the result of a free market.

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        “The one where gas taxes don’t go into the additional healthcare needs caused by automotive air pollution?”

        Really??? Wow……

        (and to avoid confusion, I am by no means agreeing with you).

      • 0 avatar
        jmo2

        “Really??? Wow……”

        Yet, I noticed you didn’t mention the degree to which the money printing is to support wars in oil rich areas.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Why is it that progressives use existing problems as excuses to create new problems rather than trying to address past mistakes?

      • 0 avatar
        spinjack

        @roadsterguy

        I’m not sure I understand. Is it your assertion then that we should increase the gas tax such that the gov’t can buy enough EV’s for everyone to use? Or is your assertion that we should eliminate the gas tax and convert all federally funded roads and bridges to toll roads?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @AMC_CJ: “Can’t have a free market making policy like that; there has to be a way to force a million people into electric vehicles.”

      I want an EV for a wide variety of reasons, but I haven’t been able to afford one just yet.

      When I bring out the new-car money, though, it’ll almost certainly be for a plugin vehicle of some sort.

      Without plugins, it’ll just be a string of 10-year-old used cars. I don’t really see the point in buying new if I get the same stuff under the hood as I get with a 10-year-old used car.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      –Without clearly communicated goals, government policies will never gain the credibility with markets they need to impact.–

      Nonsense. It is a common fallacy that a failure within an administration is due to a misunderstanding, due to a lack of communication. The problem isn’t that the President is not communicating. He is communicating daily and quite clearly. The problem isn’t a lack of understanding of his goals to Americans. The problem is that his goals are not realistic. The problem is that his goals are not acceptable to the American people. The problem is that the direction he is leading, is not the direction the American people believe we should be led.

      Bottom line – there can be no leadership without followers and when the followers are right and the leadership is wrong, the problem isn’t a lack of clear communications. It is just that the leadership is wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Pretty-much this..

        One thing that keeps making me bang my head against the wall is the disconnect behind the beltway towards the fact that there are two Americas.. Urban-Suburban America, and Rural-Smalltown America. Both have different needs and expectations from the automobiles they purchase and drive and policy to me seems to favor the Urban over the Rural.

        In Urban America, air pollution from cars is a big issue. Population is dense, so traffic is dense, other issues like the kind of microclimates produced by skyscrapers and such make direct health-damaging emissions a big problem as they are concentrated in percentages that can be very dangerous. As a result EVs sound Very promising, zero-Emission would go a long way towards solving a real and pressing problem.

        In Rural America, population is much more spread out, smog particulates just don’t get concentrated enough to be an issue.. People in Rural areas generally like/want/need trucks and SUVs of various sizes due to the greater opportunities if not necessities of driving on poor roads or no roads at all. Diesel is a viable option, or would be if not for environmental regulations that have jacked it’s price up and further regulations making it harder to make and sell diesel engines for road-use. CNG could probably take-off well here since in many rural communities there is a history of use of propane-powered vehicles, shouldn’t be too hard switching-over such infrastructure.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I would not go too far just yet, this may just be a preliminary set of ideas, but knowing the Gov’t, they don’t always fully think things through, preferring to use politics as a motivator instead.

    I’ve always liked the small sized car for a variety of reasons, one is they are MUCH more city friendly, and two, if you choose right, they ARE very practical – and many are quite stylish since many of the cars built today are SO much better than they once were.

    Some of the cars I’d consider in the future, the Prius C (strictly for looks but as a hybrid, it doesn’t look quite so bread and butter while providing very good economy), the Sonic, the Fiat 500 and soon to arrive 500L amongst others in the A-C segments, along with the Skyactiv variant of the Mazda3 or perhaps the M2.

    Living in Seattle, small cars in the A-C segments are very popular and while I walked to the grocery store yesterday from my apartment at the base of Capitol Hill’s West side to Broadway about 5 blocks up, I noted a lot of small B/C segment cars. 5-6 Honda Fits, several of the previous gen Hyumdai Accent (all hatchbacks), several VW Golfs and Jeettas, at least 2 Mazda3 hatchbacks, a Prius Zip Car, a MINI or two and there is a Fiat 500 that parks in the garage of a condo building 2 buildings up from my place and I think there may WELL be other Fiats living on the hill. Of all the cars in Capitol Hill, I would say, maybe 1/2 of them are A-C segment sized and roughly half of those are hatchbacks/wagons of some sort.

    BTW, saw the new Subaru Impreza, 2 of them in the past couple of days and from what I’ve seen, I like.

    But the big thing with EV’s as a general rule is what the electricity is generated, be it gas, coal, hydro or nuclear, it all produces/introduces pollution, albeit indirectly to the atmosphere in one form or another anyway, but I would venture, the overall volume may be not nearly as much as a million gas powered vehicles do currently.

    Plus, we need to deal with the charging station/battery infrastructure to begin with and so far, that’s not happening nearly as fast as the cars are being built and with their current range, I can see why they are not doing as well as Obama had hoped.

    BTW, see the Nissan leaf fairly frequently around these parts, there is one guy at work with one at least.

    • 0 avatar
      Cosmo123

      Don’t forget about the amount of pollution created by the manufacturing of those batteries in the first place…or the fact they’ll eventually be looking for a home in your local land-fill.

      (Then again, there’s always the orbit option. For a nominal fee, I’m sure Elon…I mean, SpaceX would happily oblige.)

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Why do you “venture the overall volume [of pollution] may be not nearly as much as a million gas powered vehicles do currently”?

      To be sure, in the Pacific NW where you live (and only in the Pacific NW) electricity comes from hydropower. But an EV in metro Washington DC runs by burning coal (which is the fuel that generates our electricity) and that’s true for most of the country, with peak loads met by burning jet fuel (for the gas turbines which power the peaking generators). With the recent availability of cheap natural gas, some peaking capacity will be powered by natural gas; and some new baseload plants are being built fueled by natural gas. Or would you prefer nuclear power to replace coal as the fuel for baseload electricity?

      It seems to me that the whole EV thing is a con, and the con is based on the fact that people will see no exhaust coming out of a tailpipe of the EV and assume it’s “clean” because they won’t make the connection between the “clean” EV and the smoke-belching coal fired powerplant out in the sticks somewhere (where people don’t see it) which generates the electricity that powers that EV.

      A classic magician’s trick: misdirection — look here, don’t look over there, and the lady will disappear from view.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    I’m a bit concerned that plug-in hybrids will have the same problem as E85 cars: they _can_ run in the government-preferred way, but they often do not in the real world.

    Consider this: the plug-in Prius has an electric range of 11 miles (per EPA) and a gasoline efficiency of about 50 MPG; if gasoline costs $4/gallon, you save only 88 cents in gasoline for the effort of plugging it in every night. Plus, to get cheap electricity you have to get a new electric meter and electric policy or you will be paying “electric guzzler” rates (at least here in California). If the government tax deductions make the plug-in version of the Prius the same price as the regular Prius, wouldn’t it be a smart move to buy the plug-in and never even bother to plug it in?

    Admittedly, the Volt gets mediocre gasoline mileage and the electric range is better, so the cost benefits of plugging it in are better. But how many people may decide, after the thrill has worn off, that it isn’t worth $2 for the effort? You could get carpool use and “green credibility” without having to go through the effort every night and morning.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      “Admittedly, the Volt gets mediocre gasoline mileage and the electric range is better, so the cost benefits of plugging it in are better. But how many people may decide, after the thrill has worn off, that it isn’t worth $2 for the effort? ”

      Actually the Volt gets good mileage in the hybrid mode, 37mpg combined.. and obviously infinite mpg in the BEV mode. In reality no one buys a luxury $30k vehicle to save gas… other things are more important.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        If it’s a luxury vehicle, why should taxpayers subsidize it, to the tune of $7,000 per vehicle sold, not counting indirect subsidies?

        Do rich people need taxpayer help to pay for their luxuries?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “If it’s a luxury vehicle, why should taxpayers subsidize it, to the tune of $7,000 per vehicle sold, not counting indirect subsidies?”

        The subsidy is not going to the buyer, who is paying over $30,000 for a compact car.

        The subsidy is going to the manufacturer, which gets to retail the aforementioned compact car for about $40,000, instead of for an amount that is far less.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        The tax credit only applies to people that pay taxes and it was intended to promote cell manufacturing and thus lowering of costs..not really intended to benefit auto makers.. interestingly enough thats about what the cells in the Volt cost at the time, GM spends an additional 30% to assemble them into a battery at the Livonia plant.

        I think the tax credit should have been restricted to cells manufactured in NA, but apparently that would start a trade war.. cells should be made here, its not a labor intensive process or polluting.. we need the engineers to have a place to work at.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      You wouldn’t plug your car in for a $2 savings every day? Yet you would go line up at the gas station and waste 10 minutes of your time every week?
      Now you have a good point about the Plug-in Prius- the short range makes it almost pointless.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Electricity is much cheaper than gas so people will try to run on electricity. It is also true that it is easier to refuel electrically than with gas if you have a place to refuel your plug in electrically.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        And let’s not forget that the EV or plug-in hybrid user is avoiding paying road use taxes that are added to the price of every gallon of gas or diesel sold when he uses electricity to power his vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Where I live, you pay an ‘electric miser tax’ if you use too little electricity each month. The electric providers have all included it so that they can publish lower rates but still make money off of those who don’t use much.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        For political reasons, consumer electric rates fit only roughly with the realities of generating and supplying electricity.

        Since electricity can’t be stored, the electric company has to have the generating capacity and transmission capacity in place to meet the total demand of its customers (or the ability to buy enough electricity from someone else to meet that demand). That is a very large fixed cost, which is constant regardless of whether the electric company’s customers are using 10% or 100% of its capacity.

        The cost that is variable is the fuel.

        If consumers were charged for electricity like industrial users, they would pay a fixed “demand” charge based on how many amps the utility has agreed to supply (the typical residential service is 100 amps), because that is the maximum demand that customer can generate, and which the electric company needs to supply. Then they would pay a usage charge based on how many kwh they used.

        For political reasons, regulatory commissions don’t want to explain to voters why they should pay a high fixed cost even if they don’t use a single kwh of electricity . . . and they’re happy to let people continue to think of electricity like water stored in a reservoir somewhere, which they can tap into whenever they want, even though the analogy is completely false.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        This isn’t political – it’s business since electricity distribution was privatized. They have to compete to get business. The low-use surcharge became the norm within the last year or so. It is set up so that it doesn’t show up on the energy facts label so people don’t know it’s there.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The original report talks about a lot of stuff, including the idea of using investments in R&D and tax credits on the demand side in order to create a market: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/blueprint_secure_energy_future.pdf

    The update talks about the same sort of thing: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/email-files/the_blueprint_for_a_secure_energy_future_oneyear_progress_report.pdf

    I’m not seeing a change in message here. If you want to argue that there won’t be a million electric cars on the road by 2015, then I will agree with you wholeheartedly. But the message argument doesn’t follow — the president is staying on message. He may have some ‘splainin’ to do in 2015, but for now, the story remains the same.

  • avatar
    lw

    I think the answer is a government sweepstakes. Put everyone in the US (legal and illegal) in the running for a Chevy Volt with the trunk filled with cash.

    Everyone is entered! 1 million will win!!

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Nah, make people fill out a form to be entered. That way, even if the trunk is full of cash, all the GM & EV haters will refuse to enter out of principle, and the odds improve for the rest of us.

  • avatar

    If the Toyota concept car that boasts 134 mpg is anywhere near reality, then BEVs are obsolete again, at least unless and until there’s a breakthrough in energy density and charging time that is affordable.

    Of course, BEVs never were practical for the masses, at least at anywhere near the current price of gasoline.

    @ciddyguy: the Fiat 500 certainly is a good city car with a tight turning circle, and can park about anywhere. The fuel economy, however, at least with the slushbox, doesn’t match my ’08 manual Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      making a concept car is not difficult. Bringing it to market is.

      Fiat 500 is optimized for looks and not wind resistance. Also Europeans don’t use slushboxes.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      If they can produce a 134 mpg car, they could also fit a 16 kWh battery (~$8k, ~300 lbs) and get 120-160 miles out of it.

      Since you throw away all the ICE bits, the EV version would probably sell for $5-6k over the ICE version without subsidy. Say $20k ICE version, $26k EV version. (in 4 years, $18k ICE version / $20k EV version)

      A 6 kW charger would charge at approximately 50-60 miles per hour. That’s not fast enough to really enable long-distance trips, but it’s plenty fast to pick up significant opportunity charge while out and about – compare to the Nissan Leaf and Volt, which charge at about 10 miles per hour with their 3 kW chargers .. or the Focus EV, which will charge at about 20 miles per hour.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        “Since you throw away all the ICE bits, the EV version would probably sell for $5-6k over the ICE version without subsidy. Say $20k ICE version, $26k EV version. (in 4 years, $18k ICE version / $20k EV version)”

        the Toyota PIP has a $10k premium over a standard Prius, and all it has is a 4kWh battery pack.. apparently Toyota is not getting a good deal from Panasonic.. but I doubt they would buy batteries from S Korea or China, they are not stupid enough to do that since they know electrics are the future.

        That 134mpg concept is about 95mpg if tested by US standards, the way they achieved it was by shaving 1000lbs from a Prius C.. they did not use carbon fiber but they did use magnesium parts.

        Best estimate now for S Korean cells is $450 per kWh, thus $7200 for a 16kWh pack, such as the iMiev uses, plus packaging of course. That car is about $20k after the tax incentives, presently the car with lowest total cost of ownership (5 years) in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        protomech

        Difference between price and cost.

        PIH also has an onboard 3kw charger and J1772 inlet. I imagine some of the electrical components are beefed up as well.

        The base plug-in Prius ($32k) is closest to the Prius three ($25.5k). $6500 before the federal subsidy, $4000 after.

        Thanks for the tidbit about the US testing, I hadn’t been following the car very closely. 95 mpg on a US driving schedule is tough but doable. 134 mpg requires a few more compromises and departures from convention.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Electric cars are impractical in colder regions of the country.

    With internal combustion engines, the waste heat is “free.” The interior can be toasty warm even in the coldest days just by diverting the coolant through the heater core.

    With electric cars, the motors and electronic controllers generate very little heat (compared to combustion engines). Heating the cabin must come from the battery.

    That makes the already short cruising range even shorter in the winter (on top of the fact that the battery capacity is already degraded by the low temperature)

    • 0 avatar
      jmo2

      Keeping in mind that the median American only drives 40 miles a day. Which, by definition, means that half of them are driving even less than that – sometimes significantly less.

      • 0 avatar
        KitaIkki

        For people who don’t drive much, it will take a long, long time to get to breakeven financially with an electric car.

        Cold weather problems. Lack of plug-in facilities for high-rise urban dwellers (the prime demographic for “occasional” car users). Range anxiety when unexpected need for a longer trip arises …

        Most people are not irrational, that’s why electric car sales are so poor even with all the government incentives. A 40MPG gas-engine compact or a non-plug-in hybrid make much more sense.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Conversely, those who don’t live in cold climes don’t need all that waste heat and have to remove it, thus making EVs more desirable.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      Depends on how low the temperatures get, of course. Some battery technologies are much less affected than others – Toshiba’s lithium-titanate SCiB technology retains 85% capacity at -30C (-22F).

      If combustion heat byproducts are useful, that almost turns an ICE vehicle into a cogenerator which substantially increases its efficiency. I agree that ICE is generally better suited to cold climes – provided that you plug the car in for the block heater ; )

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    I respect the new policy of no HTML links, but if you’d like, please copy and paste. Mallrats, ‘You Dumb Bastard’

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8xU67EjsZ4

    I think it’s pretty spot-on.

  • avatar
    Herm

    no mention of synthetic gasoline made from NG?.. just start slow with a requirement that refineries blend-in 1% synthetic gasoline and start working your way up.. and do not specify how the gasoline is made, let the market decide that.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Synthetic gasoline is of better quality than oil based gasoline. But the big problem is why would you do it? Directly burning it in a car engine is much more efficient.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        it is a much more convenient way to package and concentrate NG, and no infrastructure needed.. after you dealt with the compression losses and the low economy of CNG I’m not sure synthetic gasoline is less efficient. I have heard you can make a gallon of gasoline with $0.60 worth of NG, and a few billions $$ worth of refinery.

        My idea is to start slow at 1% mix and start increasing it over the years..that would provide a steady demand for the expensive refineries to justify their business case.

      • 0 avatar
        charly

        The plant to make gasoline from gas isn’t infrastructure?

        $0.40 worth of NG and a few thousand $$ worth of car bits saves a gallon of gasoline

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        I know, but people complain about “free heat”, short range and long recharge times.

        Yes, building a synthetic gasoline plant is expensive, but industry is willing to do this, and pay for it themselves, if they are guaranteed a steady demand enough so that banks will lend the money. Its also to our national interest to be able to make synthetic gasoline and diesel.. the military is particularly interested in diesel.

        Government regulates that oil refineries blend in 1% synthetic gasoline, competition among manufacturers and NG/Coal prices will determine the cost of that 1%.. similar to how corn ethanol is handled without subsidies.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    The oddest part of that 1.2 million PHEV/EVs by 2015 goal was the projected 195,000 Fisker Ninas that the DOE expected to be sold by 2015.

    Any logical individual could surmise that that is an unrealistic goal. A new company, with a new unknown brand, with no real dealer network, or solid production capacity, selling a PHEV, that is the price of 5-series, selling almost 200k vehicles in a few years is preposterous.

    That’s difficult even for an established brand much less a company starting fro zero.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    >>The vagueness of those rules makes them hard to interpret, but it seems that clause (1) excludes high-efficiency, small battery plug-ins like the Prius Plug-In while clause

    It clearly does, this new $10k rebate will make the Volt effectivly around the same price as the Prius PHEV.

    Currently, according to the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, the tax credit for PHEV is worth $2,500 plus $417 for each kWh of battery capacity over 5 kWh upto 16 kWh.

    So a 16kWh Chevy Volt gets $7,500 tax credit ($2,500 plus $417 (for kwh of at least 5), plus $4,587 (for the extra 11 kwh (16-5)). The Nissan Leaf, which has a 24kwh battery, also gets $7,500 but gets no bonus for its battery size that is 50% larger than the Volt as its capped at 16 kWh.

    The question for this new proposal that Obama is putting forth is what part of this math is changing. The $2,500 fixed, or the $417 per kWh portion.

    If its the latter, the Prius PHEV, with its smaller battery still gets $2,500. While the details aren’t revealed, the $32,760 Prius PHEV will be ~$30k after rebates, the Volt, if its gets this proposed $10k rebate will make the ~$41k Volt around $31k.

    The whole problem with this rebate is that it reeks as if was completely designed specifically for the Chevy Volt. As the entire rebate, and how its calculated, centers around the 16kwh battery size. Chevy announced the Volt’s 16kWh battery size at NAIAS in 2007 with the first Volt Concept and the tax rebate was put in place in 2009. Hence GM couldn’t have design the Volt around this tax rebate, rather the rebate was designed around the Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      The $7500 tax credit was designed around the Volt, by Michigan lawmakers.. the proposed tax rebate does not have any chances of passing.

      A stripped Volt (no navi except On-Star navi, no leather, cheaper radio) is $40K, the same as a loaded Package 4 PIP.. but after all the incentives it would be much less. In some States the incentive can be as high as $6k, plus the Fed $7.5k

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The proposed $10k ‘rebate’ isn’t like the current one. It would not go to consumers, but rather to the car maker. If they *choose* to pass it on to the customer, they can, but they are likely to keep some of it themselves.

      But if I could buy an eFocus for a comparable price as a Ti trim, I’d do it.

      Speaking of the eFocus: Ford has sold 10 so far. That’s ten, as in 1% of what the Volt sold last month. And that’s total, not per month. And none–zero–were sold in Feb.

      ** Bonus fun fact: Ford calls the eFocus the “Focus Electric” with the plural being “Focus Electrics.” But “electric” is clearly an adjective while “Focus” is clearly the noun. The plural should be “Foci Electric” like how “Attorney General” becomes “Attorneys General.”

      • 0 avatar
        L'avventura

        The goal of the new $10k rebate is to put on the hood of the car rather than as a federal tax rebate which the consumer has to pay upfront for. So it will be passed on for consumers. For instance, on GM’s Volt website the Volt is already advertised with the tax rebates calculated in “$31,645″.

        http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car/

        Its not sold sold as a $41k car with a $7,500 tax rebate.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        The Focus electric is not up for sale to the public yet, those 10 sold were to test fleets and for publicity.

    • 0 avatar
      GS650G

      So taxpayers are basically paying to make the volt competitive. Nice.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I would say that Obama’s support of the increased CAFE standards (and the apparent reaction of the automotive industry by introducing more and more fuel-efficient platforms) is turning out well – the increased fleet fuel economy numbers are evidence. But it seems that that very same policy is at cross-purposes with the administration’s desire for relatively rapid EV adoption, thus the attempt to revamp the policy to up the EV incentives, and more federal money for infrastructure development.
    In essence, the same policies have reduced the allure of EV’s by reducing the savings on fuel, when there are so many well-equipped “econoboxes” out there for $20k.
    Don’t discount the anti-EV tilt of “the right” as well (or anything that involves more government spending), but the “Volt-Hate” seems to be the “focus” of it.
    And yes, the rebate was designed around the Volt, what a terrible thing, trying to support advanced vehicle manufacturing here at home.
    Don’t forget, the Volt was the bigger risk/investment than the Focus electric – being that the Volt was an entirely new platform (that people might not like) whereas the Electric Focus is an existing platform (with its own shortcomings).

  • avatar
    GS650G

    It would be so much easier to just drill for oil.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      BIG +1. What can possibly be more ‘green’ than exploiting ‘mother earth’s own bounties? I’ve never understood the argument against fossil fuels.

      And what’s to say fossil fuels are not renewable? Carbon decomposes over millenia into, well, crude oil.

      What, is the ‘green’ lobby so obsessed with time dis-proven tech (EVs) and junk science regarding carbon monoxide emissions that they are so blind to the fact oil is still the cheapest, most accessible fuel there is? And that without it, society as we know it collapses?

      Or maybe ‘they’ are paranoid of descendants of dinosaurs suing the federal government for using their ancestors for gasoline/oil/plastic…

      Wow, where’d that come from…?

      And P.S. I DO NOT own oil stock :)

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I still want a fuel cell powered car for $25K.

  • avatar
    JohnTheDriver

    When Volt technology spreads across the entire GM product range I predict Neidermeyer’s brains are going to explode. But thats OK, Obamacare will fix him right up!


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