What to watch in Washington
Dave Guilford is enterprise editor of Automotive News.
In his first administration, President Obama strongly supported electric-drive vehicles. Now that he has been re-elected, will he double down?
It probably will take several months to find out, one person connected to alternative vehicle programs says. Emphasis on the fiscal cliff has extended the lull in new initiatives that typically accompanies a presidential election year. On top of that, Obama is expected to shuffle his Cabinet.
That adds up to a lot of uncertainty. But for clues to the administration's enthusiasm for electrified vehicles in the next four years, keep your eyes on:
Energy Secretary Steven Chu. If Chu stays, it signals that his strong advocacy of electric drive will continue. If he is replaced, check the new secretary's track record on the auto industry and alternative energy technologies.
The federal Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program. The Department of Energy loaned $8.4 billion to new automakers such as Tesla Motors and established companies such as Ford, but still has $16.6 billion unallocated.
After political attacks on the DOE loan to solar power company Solyndra -- in a separate program -- vehicle technology loans halted. Consequently, several small electric vehicle companies that sought the loans have closed.
In 2013, look to see if Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan money starts flowing again.
Broader focus. The first Obama administration was criticized for focusing on electric drive.
There are hints that Obama's emphasis may broaden to include heavy-duty vehicles, commercial fleets and nonelectric fuels such as compressed natural gas.
Deployment communities. A Washington advocacy group, Securing America's Future Energy, last week called for creation of "up to six fuel-neutral deployment communities in small- to medium-sized cities." That revives a proposal that has failed to get out of Congress in the past, despite bipartisan support.
Movement on a bill to create test communities for alt-fuel vehicles, including EVs and plug-in hybrids, would be a big sign that the administration is giving green cars a new push.
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