By on January 31, 2013

Today must be International Backpedaling Day. Volkswagen said “Never mind beat Toyota by 2018.”  Obama says: “Never mind a million EVs by 2015.”

Under a new strategy announced today, the Department of Energy promised to support research into new battery technologies and manufacturing methods that would lower the cost of lightweight materials and improve vehicles’ fuel-efficiency, Reuters reports.

But the DOE backpedales furiously from a goal set out in a 2011 State of the Union speech, where President Barack Obama announced what he called “Apollo projects of our times.” One of them was the goal for the United States to be “the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.”

“Whether we meet that goal in 2015 or 2016, that’s less important than that we’re on the right path to get many millions of these vehicles on the road,” an unnamed Energy Department official told Reuters.

Reuters notes that “demand for hybrids and electric vehicles has been weaker than expected.” Government money was poured into black holes. Says Reuters:

“Poor demand has hurt lithium-ion battery makers, pushing two DOE grant recipients, A123 Systems Inc and EnerDel, to file for bankruptcy protection. Dow Chemical Co took a $1.1 billion charge last year, related in part to a writedown of its lithium-ion battery business, Dow-Kokam LLC.”

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42 Comments on “Obama Chickens Out, Says A Million EVs By 2015 Not Important...”


  • avatar
    ant

    so what’s your point Bert?

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Apparently companies and governments shouldn’t set goals. Thanks for the advice.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Realistic goals – even stretch goals – are great.

      But ramping from a few thousand to a hundreds of thousands EVs per year in only 4 years’ time is ridiculous. You couldn’t even give that many EVs away for free. The EV market isn’t Facebook.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        There was a lot of skepticism that hybrids would hit those kinds of numbers, too, but it’s happened. Sure, EVs are a much larger step beyond conventional cars, but I wouldn’t count them out. All it would take is a repeat of the Prius story, in which the 2nd generation is far more convenient than the 1st. It may not be likely, but it’s not inconceivable either.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @carlismo

        But hybrids never lived up to the projections made back in 1999 and 2000, where even Toyota was saying 25% of cars sold by 2010 would be hybrids. They were off by an order of magnitude, but at least they gave it 10 years and not 4. Sales of hybrid are still in the low single digits for all light vehicles sold in the US each year.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        @APaGtth

        I think you are mixing ‘cars’ versus light vehicles. In CY 2012, Toyota/Scion/Lexus sold 1,198,884 cars (non crossover/suv/trucks) in the US. 236,659 of those sales were the Prius family.

        That is 20% without including hybrid Lexus, Camry etc. sales which might make it 21%-22%. Not that far off.

        Pretty close.

        **Edit….I stripped out Scion and Lexus sales.

        Toyota US Car sales 2012CY=992,638
        Prius US sales 2012CY=236,659

        24%

        I didn’t spend the time chasing down Camry Hybrid sales (which are very small) but those sales probably push it to 25%…just what they said.

      • 0 avatar
        ydnas7

        I can predict 1.4 million xEV through 2016, so its OK for a stretch goal where the oil price plays a factor.

        http://img10.imageshack.us/img10/6439/evgrowth2.gif

        do remember that when Bush or Obama say EV, they’re thinking GM Volt, so everything from a plug in Prius through to a Tesla is included.

        A fisher pry analysis would suggest that the first 5% is hard, but getting to 50% then becomes rapid.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @carlisimo:

        There is a vast difference between pure EVs and hybrids. Hybrids can perform any function the consumer previously expected of a car; EVs cannot because of charging limitations.

        Until the technical limitations are overcome to permit very rapid charging and long range, they’ll have very limited deployment.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Did we ever get to Mars, as that was in a state of the union speech?

  • avatar
    Loser

    What? A politician that backpedals? I hope this doesn’t start a trend of politicians backpedaling and lying. Read my lips, no new backpedaling.

  • avatar
    lowsodium

    If battery technology got really good since his speech we might have seen that many. But the tech is just not there for mainstream users to bite, plus the cost is still a little high. If batteries can get double the mileage and half the charging time of where they are currently at you will see a lot more humming around.

    The other problem is gas is still very affordable compared to the rest of the world. At $3 a gallon no one is freaking out like when it hit $5. Every article I have read recently about gas prices is that they will most likely stay stable since they are getting better at finding it.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Here in Ontario with gas around 4.50? a gallon,I’m not seeing a whole lot of EV’s.

      I do see a lot of Civics and and “J” cars. Full size pick ups are real common sight out here in burbs.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        Aside from on dealer lots, I’ve seen one iMiEV and one Leaf on the roads in Ontario – TOTAL.

        I don’t think people trust them with maintaining performance in cold weather while forging through snow with the defroster and heat on full. I sure wouldn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        You’re right. In extreme climates, batteries don’t do well. Here in temperate Seattle, the Leaf does just fine and I see at least one of them daily during my commute. My friend who owns one has almost two years on his, with no noticeable battery degradation yet.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Reality sets in, as reality is wont to do. Government fiat & interference in a (relatively) free market doesn’t work in the long run.

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    The observation that I make is that as they backpedal, they ignor the legislation (CAFE and the like) they enacted that was reliant on the same presumptions of the population buying into their vision of the electric car future.
    Putting on my foil had… Now that the Supreme court has stated that a tax can be levied against a citizen’s inaction we may see “you didn’t buy an electric car” tax enacted to stimulate/motivate people to buy electric cars or to penalize those who don’t buy an electric car.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Obama “chickens out”? Or does he acknowledge the infallible wisdom of TTAC that declared this initiative DOA?

    Is there anything this administration could do or say that wouldn’t the typical snarkfest here?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s not “chickening out”. He’s just been reading the Baruth, Sajeev, Steve, DK, and Bertel… and well he gained a more realistic point of view.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Based on what I see driving around West LA, the Tesla Model S I think will be a winner in the market. It tickles the eco-crew in all the right places, and is the only genuine upgrade for a whole moneyed demographic with only the Prius.

    Sure there’s the Volt, but its a GM product offered to the most trending-trendy buyers – its like trying to talk a Mac dork into Windows 8. Nope. Then there’s the Leaf, kind of a kit-car mod of a Versa, with all the stereotype limitations of EV’s. And the Fisker is just a Volt fastback that breaks and catches on fire.

    But just in past month I’ve seen eight or nine Model S’s. They are built like ‘real’ cars in a real car factory, they actually have toys and build quality a $90,000 dollar ride is supposed to have. They are more eco than a Prius, blow the doors off all the social climber 3-Series, and do not make you anxious about battery power after thirty miles.

    A million by 2015 probably not. But a hundred thousand Teslas?
    Yeah, I think they can do that if the Germans can collectively move 100,000 similar rides in one year. If Teslas owned now can keep the buyers happy, they will make a dent in that market with that car.

    • 0 avatar
      lzaffuto

      I’d like to see an EV with the range of the Model S but without the requirements of being faster than everything and having more gadgets than anything. I’d love to have an EV except for 1.range and 2.price. The more I have of 1 the less I worry about 2, but 90k is stupid money unless you are a celebrity.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      @carnotcycle

      ‘A million by 2015 probably not. But a hundred thousand Teslas?
      Yeah, I think they can do that if the Germans can collectively move 100,000 similar rides in one year’

      To sell a car that company must be able to build that car.

      Tesla is now bragging that they can build 400 cars per week. That’s 21,000 per year without any downtime. Forget about finding buyers for a car priced at that level, they will have to show they can build that many.

      • 0 avatar
        CarnotCycle

        Like anything else, more Tesla makes Model S’s longer they practice the better they’ll get at it. Nobody has made a vehicle unorthodox relative to its market – from trains to airliners to cars to jet fighters – and kept a schedule since the Boeing 777. Nobody.

        But Tesla seems to be working kinks out of their processes and actually are getting better making their cars. And they make cars instead of excuses now, and the cars from most indicators are actually as good as they said the cars would be – which itself is kind of amazing. Plus they’ve missed all the burning-lithium issues that have afflicted rides like Fiskers, Volts, and Dreamliners, which again is kind of amazing. More and more I like their chances.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      Carnot, you’ll see a lot more Teslas in L.A. than I do here in New Jersey. While I honestly can’t go a mile in three directions without seeing several Toyota hybrids, there’s an enormous price difference in them. Yet, when I visit relatives in other states, I can go for days without seeing a hybrid.

      Point being, don’t base your prognostications on what you observe to be popular in Los Angeles. I sure as heck ain’t making prognostications based on what I see here in my liberal burg in New Jersey.

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        Are you correcting for income? I’ve spotted a couple of Karmas and a few Model S’s in a couple of high income, ironically locally “conservative” neighborhoods of Chicago. But they’re very specific neighborhoods — once the baby Bentleys turn into loaded Land Rovers, the electric cars disappear.

      • 0 avatar
        CarnotCycle

        Rod, I don’t think everyone will want a Tesla. Not by a long shot. But there still are fifty thousand peeps, per year in USA alone, with both the scratch and itch to own a trophy electric that is still a swanky fast ride.

        One thing about Teslas that I do wonder about: Heaters. Those cars I bet are absolute dogs in any real winter.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      “Then there’s the Leaf, kind of a kit-car mod of a Versa, with all the stereotype limitations of EV’s.”

      Offense taken: The Leaf is a ‘real car’, built in a ‘real factory’, both in Japan and now in Tennessee. The Leaf is quieter, quicker, and more comfortable than a Versa. I guess you’ve never been in one.

      The only ‘stereotype’ limitation of the Leaf is its limited range. It’s not clunky or slow, if you were referring to stereotypes. And its looks are trendy (although not beautiful), unlike the homely i-MiEV.

      The Leaf is my first EV. I can’t afford the Model S, but I’ll agree that’s the bomb in the EV market.

      • 0 avatar
        CarnotCycle

        The Leaf, for all the merits you cite, is in with the rest the losers I mentioned market-wise. If you own an electric car because its personally important to own a non-heat cycle car, there’s the Leaf. But for a Leaf’s price you can get a lot more actual car.

        Anything you want a vehicle to be good at for the money – comfort, ride, performance, space, utility, combination of all above – you can do better than the Leaf. Its only ‘advantage’ in its market is the satisfying abstraction that it’s an electric car. That isn’t good enough to sell a lot of cars obviously – even factoring in the tax break.

        The Tesla Model S is a good car. Not a good electric car, which implies a lower expectation frankly, but a good car on car-merits alone. As a daily driver in even big metros its range lets the operator not care about charge same way heat-cycle owner doesn’t worry constantly about fuel.

        Leafs are none of those things, hence they sit on the lot, even with Uncle Sugar slapping mad cash on the dash. You have to get in line to buy a Model S. And I am a Tesla-cynic slowly being converted here, just from what I see.

        I thought failures of cars like the Leaf to sell in any meaningful numbers, from big companies like Nissan that knew their business, made plausible success of the Model S remote. But Tesla has made a really good car, reviews and my own eyes don’t lie. They’ve made something a lot of people actually want, electric or not. The electric is the bonus, not the reason, the car is desirable to a mainstream buyer in its market. Can’t say the same about a Volt or a Leaf. And that’s ultimately what I mean. You’re right though, the Leaf is not a kit car.

  • avatar
    niky

    All this chickening… I’m starting to get hungry.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Hey..lets grill some chicken over a Fisker!!
    Seriously(sorta)governments have poured money into new technology since the invention of the steam engine.
    But this EV thing is going to cost the taxpayers much more than its worth.
    With gasoline prices stabilizing and nat gas as a back up….
    There is a limited market.
    The BEST approach for the times would be ‘illegal alien’ power!Harnessing the UN-documented as a power source???
    I wonder what the range of a rickshaw is????

  • avatar
    niky

    Rickshaws should get 20 miles to the Big Mac. Of course, you don’t really need to use premium fuel, so you can save quite a bit at the pumps.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The Apollo project had the support of many Americans, and the commitment endured long after the death of the beloved founder, John Kennedy.
    EV’s, however, could not gain the same importance, being sold as a commie plot to take our gas-guzzlers away by a socialist Arab president, and fought tooth-and-nail by the moneyed oil interests.

    Or, something like that.

    “Obama Chickens Out” – the height of journalism. Keep up the good work.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Reuters noted that “demand for hybrids and electric vehicles has been weaker than expected.”

    Expect the unexpected!

    Follow all that money that lined the pockets of his supporters/cronies…

    Forward!!!


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