Will Goal of 1 Million Plug-in Hybrids by 2015 Be Hard to Hit?

By dancurranjr On April 21st, 2009

Washington Prius PHEVPresident Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to put 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015 is fraught with difficulties, from technical and engineering hurdles to the realities of the economy and the price of gasoline.

It took eight long years to get 1 million hybrids on the road in the United States, and even a White House task force says one of the leading new plug-in cars being developed is too expensive to gain popularity any time soon.

Obama’s goal could help revitalize the struggling U.S. auto industry and begin shifting motorists away from the gas pump. But to many, it’s overly optimistic.

“The economics won’t make sense for the majority of Americans in the next several years,” said Brett Smith, who studies plug-in hybrids at the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research.

Plug-in hybrids allow motorists to drive a limited number of miles on battery power before the engine switches over to run on gasoline or other fuels. A driver can plug the car into a conventional wall outlet at night and be ready to go electric again in the morning.

The cars could dramatically reduce gasoline use because many commuters drive fewer than 40 miles a day.

Obama last month toured a California electric car facility where he announced $2.4 billion to develop advanced batteries and electric cars. The administration has said the vehicles would play a role in its goal to reduce dependence on foreign oil, cut greenhouse gas emissions and create “green” jobs.

During his campaign, Obama promised $4 billion in tax credits to automakers to revamp their plants to build plug-ins, and a $7,000 tax credit for consumers who buy early versions of the cars. He even pledged to convert the White House vehicle fleet to plug-ins within a year, as security permits, and require half of the cars bought by the government to be plug-in or all electric by 2012.

To automakers, battery makers and utilities, the pledge was akin to one made by President John F. Kennedy generations ago.

SOURCE: The Tennessean

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