State of the Union: One Million Electric Cars by 2010?

Tuesday night, Mr. Obama emphasized the importance of government investment in everything from high-speed rails and highways to schools and clean-energy industries.

The President listed several clean-energy goals to work towards. For instance, the President proposed that 85% of the nation’s energy should come from clean energy by 2035 and that he’d like to see America be the first country to have at least 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The latter would require the production of way more electric vehicles and way more infrastructure, which could mean way more jobs. J.D. Power and Associates predicts there to be roughly 700,000 electric cars on the road by 2015, a whole 300,000 shy of the President’s goal.

In order to reach these goals, Mr. Obama challenged individuals and businesses to bring together the best and the brightest to work on developing new ideas and technologies. He went as far as proposing the elimination of taxpayer subsidies for oil companies. Pausing for a second, the President said, “I don’t know if you noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

Here’s a quick, informative image of U.S. energy subsidies from 2002-2008.

If electric cars are a part of “tomorrow’s energy,” how exactly are we going to get Americans to make the switch to electric? Cutting back on oil subsidies will likely cause a rise in gas prices. Europeans pay roughly $7 bucks a gallon, and the Chinese around $5, which is much closer to what gas would cost on the open market. Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen an increase at U.S. pumps and it’s expected to rise into the summer months. What would happen if Americans started paying $5 a gallon? What sort of implications would there be for those who can’t afford a new electric car (even with tax credits) and can’t afford the higher price of gas to get to and from work? What’s it going to take to make the transition without placing a burden on the already fragile middle and lower classes?

In order to become a widely used mode of transportation, electric cars need to be accessible to the masses. Perhaps the government could offer a higher tax break for those in a lower income bracket or ensure that the proper infrastructure be installed in lower income areas. Also, the government should launch education efforts to make the public aware of the tax incentives and that electric cars have the potential to cost less to maintain and operate—especially if they are powered by clean-energy created on American soil. On average, charging up an electric car will cost about $3 per 100 miles whereas a gas-powered vehicle costs about $9 per 100 miles.

The benefits of switching to electric are profound, but it may not seem as obvious if Americans are unaware of what they could be saving.

Charis works in MOM’s main office.

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5 Responses to State of the Union: One Million Electric Cars by 2010?

  1. alyssabdh says:

    Hey, thanks for dissecting that State of the Union! I researched electric and hybrid tax credit info after reading it. I’ll share it here..


  2. charisomatic says:

    Thanks for posting the link! This whole electric car thing is so crazy–I don’t know if it’s just the cost or the whole range anxiety hysteria that freaks people out or if it’s the process of getting the infrastructure (charging unit) installed in your house or apartment complex that makes it seems like it’s not worth the hassle. There are so many incentives out there to get one, but people aren’t biting–including me! Maybe we’re worried that these freebies and tax credits are too good to be true?! Ecotality is offering free charging units for people’s homes (including most if not all the installation costs) if they show proof of purchase! That’s like getting a free gas pump installed in your garage only it doesn’t cost as much to use…

    Here’s the Ecotality site….I like free things:

    Maybe the gov and major auto manufacturers should just have an electric car lottery and give away a few hundred thousand cars…just sayin’!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Electric cars have been thought of as one ansewr to our dependence on fossil fuel burning vehicles. Their main appeal is that they produce no air pollution at the point of use so provide a way of shifting emissions to less polluted areas.Unfortunately also “out of sight” are the environmental consequences of manufacturing and recycling the lead- acid batteries electric vehicles require to run on.A recent report in Science (Lave et al, vol. 268, p 993. May 1995) drew attention to the problem of lead batteries in electric cars: “Smelting and recycling the lead for these batteries will result in substantial releases of lead to the environment”. The researchers compared the power, efficiency and environmental effects of electric cars with petrol powered vehicles. Not only are electric cars comparatively slower and far more restricted in the distance they can travel but release more lead into the environment as well.The study showed that an electric car with batteries made from newly mined lead releases 60 times more lead than that of a car using leaded petrol. (Their example uses the relatively high 2.1 g/gallon leaded petrol used in the US in 1972 and in some Australian states up to the 1990).Although the lead discharged in lead smelting and reprocessing is generally less available to humans in the U.S. than that dispersed by leaded petrol cars driving where people are living (only one percent of U.S. petrol sold is leaded) there are still significant hazards. Lead processing facilities release lead into the air and waterways, and lead in solid waste leaches slowly into the environment.Electric car by Alexander Claud aged 10.Clearly electric cars, despite their “good for the environment” image create far more of a problem than leaded petrol cars. In addition “If a large number of electric cars are produced, the demand for lead for batteries will surge, requiring more lead to be mined.” (ibid, p.995)Manufacture needs to be halted until an alternative safer power source is found. This rules out current alternatives such as nickel-cadmium and nickel metal hydride batteries which are also highly toxic and far more expensive. Researchers speculate that sodium-sulphur and lithium-polymer technologies may eventually be used.

      • MT says:

        Just a couple of points Elizabeth:

        You cited what you called a ‘recent’ article in the journal Science, but most in the field would not consider nearly 20 years old particularly recent.

        It seems that the speculation of your closing comments is what has ultimately come to pass; that is, modern production EV’s such as those from Tesla, Nissan, and Ford all utilize lithium-ion batteries as the primary source of energy for vehicle propulsion. I’m no expert on the technical issues, but I do not think lead pollution would be a relevant issue any longer regarding EV production (at least not any more so than conventional vehicles, which all similarly use lead-acid batts to power auxiliary systems [besides starting the motor]).


  3. Michael says:

    We have a reservation fee down for a Nissan LEAF when the DC/Baltimore market goes live later this year.

    I get that some people are uneasy about switching to what is in some ways a different mode of transport–not being able to rely on a gas station at every intersection–but we’re not all that concerned about making it work.

    If a second vehicle becomes necessary we’ll probably also take a close look at the electric Ford Focus due out in 2012…

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