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.