In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama set a goal of having one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The million EVs would include plug-in hybrids, extended range electric vehicles, and all-electric vehicles. Now that we’re roughly at the halfway point for the 2015 goal, what is the scorecard?
It’s important to note that the goal was rather naively – or perhaps intentionally – based on manufacturer- and media-supplied data on how many electric cars could be built and not from projections of how many people would actually buy them. Unless we’re talking very hot-selling items like the latest Apple iPhone or iPad, sales projections are usually based on projected sales and not made on potential production.
The estimate actually projected 1,222,200 EV units produced including 13,000 commercial vehicles (Ford Transit Connect, Navistar eStar EV, and Newton EV). Another 252,000 included Fisker Karma and Nina models and the Think EV). Think is no longer producing cars and Fisker Automotive has ceased production, although it should reappear because of it’s just-announced bankruptcy sale to China’s Wanxiang Group..
Sales of the four EVs and PHEVs to date have been far lower than their target numbers, with the Tesla S a lone exception. The million EV goal looks far from being achievable by 2015.
Electric vehicle models not included in President Obama’s estimates, but now on sale, are the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Honda Fit EV, Fiat 500e, Chevrolet Spark EV, Toyota RAV4 EV, and smart electric drive. Of these, only the i-MiEV is available everywhere in the country. Some others can be considered ‘compliance vehicles’ since they are only offered in very limited ways with the intent to comply with California’s ZEV mandate, which aims at putting over 1.4 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2025.
Part of the government’s strategy to reach this goal is to offer substantial tax credits to encourage sales. Typically, this includes a federal credit of $7,500 plus state incentives. As of November 2013, 40 states and the District of Columbia have monetary incentives including electric vehicle tax credits and registration fee reductions ranging from $1,000 in Maryland to $6,000 in Colorado. Even with incentives, though, electric sales are not keeping pace with President Obama’s ambitious goals.
Bill Siuru is a retired USAF colonel who has been writing about automotive technology for 45 years. He has a Bachelor degree in automotive engineering, a PhD in mechanical engineering, and has taught engineering at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy.