|Plotting the Long Road to One Million Electric Cars|
By Martin LaMonica
February 2, 2009
Meeting the Obama Administration's goal of putting 1 million plug-in
electric vehicles on the road by 2015 will only happen with a coordinated set of
policies and technology advances, according to an electric vehicle association.
Chevrolet hopes the Volt will be the first mass-produced plug-in electric car on
American roads by late 2010.
The Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA) on Tuesday is expected to
release a set of policy recommendations for ushering in what auto industry
executives call a major technological shift away from gas-only cars to electrics.
EDTA members include auto manufacturers, battery companies, a number of electric
utilities, and other industry associations.
The group is lobbying for policies to boost domestic manufacturing industry,
fund technology research, and launch wide-scale testing of electric vehicles. It
said tax incentives, which currently give consumers up to a $7,500 rebate
depending on battery size, should be extended to a higher number of cars and
private fleet purchases.
On the technology side, batteries remain the biggest hurdle. The EDTA said the
Department of Energy should fund to develop and test energy storage and fuel cells systems.
"Energy storage capability is the key to the success of the vehicles and also is
the enabling technology for using renewable power as a transportation fuel,"
according to the EDTA's policy recommendation report.
In an indication how of important battery technology is, General Motors decided
to manufacture the battery pack for the Chevy Volt and other electric-gas cars
itself, rather than purchase the packs from a supplier. The battery cells will
be supplied by LG Chem.
In addition to technology progress, battery and auto company executives say that
establishing a supply chain of electric vehicle components will require
collaboration among different companies.
Fourteen U.S. companies have established an alliance to lobby the U.S.
government for $1 billion in federal aid to build up U.S. battery manufacturing,
according to a Wall Street Journal report published last December.
Car manufacturers will need to provide warranties on batteries which have not
yet had years of testing among consumers, the EDTA said. Some automakers have
considered leasing batteries, which will allow consumers to upgrade to newer batteries.
The EDTA also argues that new business models are required to prompt consumers
to purchase electric vehicles, even though they promise a jump in fuel efficiency.
The group recommends setting up an infrastructure for charging stations,
coordinating with utilities and companies that test fleets of plug-in electric
vehicles, including government agencies.
"By helping public and private entities to build coherent alternative vehicle
and infrastructure solutions, the federal government can help the industry to
move beyond the 'chicken vs. egg' question," according to the report.