As President Obama gears up to deliver the State of the Union address for the sixth time tonight, now's as good a time as any to reflect on the mandates, promises and calls to action from his previous speeches. Here's one: that call from 2011 to have 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015.
Hey, 2015! That's now! So how'd be we do?
Not great, as it turns out. The Detroit News' David Shepardson pointed out today that Obama in 2011 called for 1 million plug-in EVs to be on American roads by this year. We haven't even come close to that number.
Obama in his 2011 State of the Union Address renewed a call he made as a candidate in 2008: to get 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015. But sales have been far slower than expected — about 280,000, including 120,000 in 2014 — according to insideevs.com, which tracks EV sales. The numbers show that even with dramatic increases it could take at least four more years to hit the mark.
Oof. We're only off by, what, about three quarters of one-million? It just proves that Americans have been a lot slower to adopt electric cars en masse as some anticipated. Call it a desire to cling to traditional cars, or a lack of infrastructure and the "chicken and egg" problem, or the fact that new cars keep getting more and more fuel efficient.
You could also blame Congress, as this story notes:
Congress hasn't agreed with calls by Obama to hike the tax credit for electric vehicles to $10,000 and convert it to a point of sale rebate. His call for dramatically boosted research into electric vehicle batteries to reduce costs and extend range has gone unheeded. Congress also has spurned repeated calls to trim oil industry tax breaks to fund additional electric vehicle research.
In April 2013, Obama said he wanted to hike the Energy Department's vehicle research budget 75 percent to $575 million and create a $2 billion trust fund to fund research into getting the country off foreign oil over the next 10 years. Congress didn't approve that, either.
Further, none of this has been helped by the trend of ridiculously cheap gas prices, which could prove to be a serious threat to electric cars and have already cost Elon Musk and Tesla Motors a ton of money.
You're nuts if you think the cheap gas will last forever, or even that it will somehow kill the electric car industry. But they could end up stalling whatever momentum EVs had going for a while.
Expect the president to tout the strong year the U.S. auto industry had in 2014 in his speech tonight, and maybe mention some other auto or infrastructure-related issues.
In the meantime, how do we get 1 million EVs on the road in America? And is that even a good goal to have?