Obama's One Million Electric Vehicles by 2015 Mirage Recedes Further

Back in the halcyon days (2009) of the his administration when concerns about a ballooning federal deficit were casually swept aside in the face of his vaulting ambition to remake the American economy, President Barack Obama promised that the federal government would spend $5 billion in subsidies and the result would be:

[W]e will put 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on America's roads by 2015.

As a former political competitor might say, "How's that workin' out for ya?" Not all that well, says brilliant University of Manitoba science and energy policy analyst, Vaclav Smil. Over at The American, Smil updates the multiple failures that come with trying to subsidize into reality millions of vehicles for which appropriate (that is, inexpensive and effective) supporting technologies do not yet exist. Smil points out that none of the production and sales goals set by car companies have been met.

Renault-Nissan: 500,000 electric vehicles by 2013 - actual 7,000 in 2012.

General Motors Volt: 45,000 in 2012 - actual 20,000 in 2012 (plants idled twice due to lack of demand).

Tesla: 2012 deliveries were cut from 5,000 to 2,700–3,250, due to production problems.

Toyota: Cancelled plans to mass produce its mini-electric eQ city car.

Fisker Karma: Don't ask.

As Smil points out:

But by the end of 2012, the United States had about 50,000 electrics on the road, no more than 0.03 percent of all light-duty vehicles licensed to operate in the country.

Those 50,000 vehicles amount to just 5 percent of the way toward Obama's goal of 1 million electric vehicles by 2015. Achieving that goal implies manufacturing and selling about 320,000 electric vehicles each year for the next three years. If Smil is right that each Volt costs $80,000 to manufacture and sells for $32,000 per copy, I fear that President Obama might conclude that the "obvious" solution to the 950,000 electric vehicle shortfall is, say, a federal subsidy of $48,000 per car. But just think of the jobs "saved!" I shudder.

For background on just how wonderfully successful Obama's energy subsidies have been, see Reason's extensive coverage on the Solyndra fiasco. Also, take a look at my article, "Revving Up Electric Cars with Government Cash," where I report on my visit to the federally subsidized and now defunct car battery manufactuer, Ener1.

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  • Lord Humungus||

    Intentions!

  • Almanian.||

    *UPTWINKLES*

  • anon||

    TAXES WILL CONTINUE TO RISE UNTIL THE ECONOMY IMPROVES

  • fish||

    Ron Bailey.....HATER!

  • sarcasmic||

    Practical electric cars have been on the horizon for over a hundred years.

  • Almanian.||

    We'll get to them right after we perfect the 100MPG carburetor fuel injection fuel cell that's sitting on a dusty shelf, unused due to Big Auto's evul plan to suppress fuel efficiency in cahoots with Big Oil.

    Mwaaaaahahahahahaha!!!

  • ||

    MAKE IT SO

  • Almanian.||

    You have to say the magic words ("Number One"), or they'll never do it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    "Enrage."

  • Geoff Nathan||

    I guess because I live in the Detroit area I see way more Volts on the road than these numbers would suggest. But I don't know anyone who owns one--just a couple of Prius owners. And the old days of hostility to foreign cars in the area is pretty much gone (except at factory parking lots, where you still can't bring in a Honda or Toyota.)

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I was stopped next to a Volt at a stoplight yesterday, and realized it was the first one I've seen "in the wild".

  • sarcasmic||

    I saw a Romney sticker on Prius. A little voice inside my head said "That's odd".

  • anon||

    Only in the sense that the man was obviously trying to save money on gas and must've sincerely believed that Romney would also help him save money on taxes.

  • Spoonman.||

    I saw a Prius in Quakertown, PA covered in anti-Obama stickers. It was surprising.

  • RG||

    The Prius part yes, the Quakertown part not so much. Thats my neck of the woods.

  • GILMORE||

    =Spoonman.| 11.29.12 @ 12:08PM |#

    I saw a Prius in Quakertown, PA covered in anti-Obama stickers. It was surprising

    MY HUMMER IS COATED IN THE SKINS OF FRESHLY SLAIN ENDANGERED SPECIES AND SPEWS GREENHOUSE GASSES OUT OF MULTIPLE SMOKESTACKS AND MY BUMPER STICKER SAYS "VERMIN SUPREME 2013 (POST SECESSION RELECTION)"

  • sarcasmic||

    I guess it doesn't work that well without "Out on the road today".

  • ||

    I've seen one. It's like spotting a rare sports car.

  • Drake||

    I've seen Volts in the wilds of NJ twice. A few more on the Merritt Parkway in CT where people don't know where to spend their cash now that GM ruined Saab.

  • Spoonman.||

    I saw one in the parking lot of a Kroger in Houston once.

    What was weird was that the license plate frame was from a dealership in Austin, so somebody really put a lot of gas through the thing.

  • Solitude Guard||

    DAMN STONECUTTERS!!!

    First Guttenberg, and now this!

  • sarcasmic||

    Police Academy, Short Circuit, Cocoon...

  • Paul.||

    The hydrogen economy is just around the corner!

  • CampingInYourPark||

    2 free Volts for 500,000 new science or math teachers. Goals reached and surpassed

  • anon||

    Little off-topic; I'd say roughly half my customers that drive some type of hybrid vehicle do so purely for the savings in gas money. The other half are TEAM BLUE hacks though.

    In NC, seeing lots of pro-fracking stickers on hybrids makes me happy.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Fusion Power, baby!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    President Barack Obama promised that the federal government would spend $5 billion in subsidies and the result would be:

    [W]e will put 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on America's roads by 2015.

    Maybe I'm just slow, but what actual net positive effect would this have on the world at large?

    AND

    I fear that President Obama might conclude that the "obvious" solution to the 950,000 electric vehicle shortfall is, say, a federal subsidy of $48,000 per car.

    Aren't we effectively doing that already?

  • anon||

    Aren't we effectively doing that already?

    Yes, but it hasn't been effective so we have to SPEND MOAR!

  • GILMORE||

    The Late P Brooks| 11.29.12 @ 12:36PM |#

    "[W]e will put 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on America's roads by 2015."

    Maybe I'm just slow, but what actual net positive effect would this have on the world at large?

    It would soothe the egos of the progressive liberal 'intelligentsia' in whose fairly-land world exchanging efficient oil use in transportation for inefficient coal or gas powered electricity (which must now be transported en masse to every nether region of the nation if travel is to be at all feasible) is somehow a 'net positive'... at least on an emotional level.

    "Oil", you see, is the root of all capitalist evil... the symbol of earth-raping 'productivity' ... the reason for all wars, dictatorships, destroyer of ocean life, cause of third-world racist oppression... the thing that prevents our squeaky-clean organic vegan race-neutral sterilized progressive dreamworld from fruition... by 'stopping Oil', making oil harder to extract, transport, refine, or actually use, they will achieve both an economic and moral victory which they can rub in the faces of their ideological enemies for the rest of time...

    ...and by using beneficient Government to force-feed plastic cars into the marketplace (rather than being drug kicking and screaming through the ugly dynamics of supply and demand), they will have achieved a second symbolic victory of proving that social engineering is in fact possible and good and see we told you so.

    Something like that.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Speaking of Stupid Prius Bumper Stickers:

    I saw one that said, "WE ARE THE ONE PER CENT"

    *outright, prolonged laughter*

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I fucked that up horribly.

    The bumper sticker said, "WE ARE THE NINETY NINE PER CENT"

    Must have been some sort of Freudian logic inversion episode.

  • Calion||

    Broken links: "Don't ask" and "Revving Up Electric Cars with Government Cash."

  • Mokers||

    Technically, the President said "plug-in" hybrid vehicles, not pure electric cars. Plug-in hybrids can run in all electric mode, but has a small engine to charge the battery if the original charge goes down. That being said, plug in hybrid vehicles are also nowhere near the goal.

    And when the democrats want to raise taxes on the wealthy, how about they remove the tax breaks for electric cars and plug-in hybrids if you make over $250,000? Why are they asking the middle class to subsidize Matt Damon's Tesla?

  • GILMORE||

    Mokers| 11.29.12 @ 2:14PM |#

    Technically, the President said "plug-in" hybrid vehicles, not pure electric cars

    Technically, the president is full of shit all the time, so does it really matter?

  • eric711||

    What's with all the negative comments here? Electric cars are very good consumer products and eventually will be better products than combustion engine car so get used to it folks. No were not at a million cars on the road yet, but lets wait and see. I think we'll get closer than this article thinks. Also I think your 50,000 electric cars on the road is low, last year there were about 20,000, and this year sales look like they will be double that and we'll probably end up with more like 60-70,000 on the road by the end of the year. Again in case you missed it the sales will have more than doubled from last year. If 40,000-50,000 electric cars was sold in 2012 and we double it again next year to, 100,000, then double it again in 2014, to 200,000, and double it again in 2015, for 400,000. That get's us very close to 1 million cars on the road. That would be somewhere in the range of 800,000-1 million cars. That's if the sales continue to climb as they have been climbing, not if they increase. Stop the nehbombs of negativity people.

  • DaveSs||

    The plugin hybrid is targeted towards a very specific niche of consumers.

    High income (average income of Volt buyers is ~$170,000)
    Hardcore environmentalist

    Willing to pay a $10,000 premium* on a small car with practically no cargo carrying capacity (my old Sunfire had more cargo room than a Volt)

    * Even after accounting for the $7,500 electric car welfare bribe.

    Probably not much more than a million people fitting that description in the US...and of those, most would have already bought a Prius for its obvious advantages....cheaper and roomier.

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