In his State of the Union address, President Obama stated a goal of putting one million plug-in electric cars on the road within four years. Well, just a week later, we learn that goal is unlikely to be met.
That is the finding of a report issued Wednesday that said automakers are not planning on producing that many cars because of uncertain demand from consumers.
"There is a big challenge in going from marketing the Leaf or the Volt to early adopters to selling them to mainstream retail car-buyers," said John Graham, dean of the school of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, which conducted and funded the study. "Until then, the automakers' production plans will be quite cautious."
The study panel was made up of a Ford executive, a federal energy scientist and representatives from an environmental group, academia and an industry research group. Input was also received from Nissan and General Motors, respective makers of the Leaf and Volt.
Those two cars went on sale recently, and gained a lot of attention from the media and environmentalists.
But at $32,780 for the Leaf and $41,000 for the Volt, they cost far more than a comparably sized car with a gas engine. The battery range of the all-electric Leaf (the Volt has a small gas engine), is less than 100 miles, and places where batteries can be replenished are sparse at best. Also, it can take hours to recharge.
Despite a $7,500 incentive from the federal government to buy either car, the report said people will be slow to flock to electric cars, so the one million goal is just a pipe dream.
"When you start to aggregate the automakers' announced intentions, it's difficult to get to one million by 2015," Graham said.
Those intentions include GM's plan to produce up to 45,000 Chevrolet Volts in 2012, and Nissan's 25,000 Leafs this year. Nissan is building a plant in Tennessee that could eventually manufacture 150,000 Leafs per year. But clearly, none of this math adds up to a million.