The proposed federal plan to pump $11 billion into electric vehicles has a new dimension to it.
The megabucks would come through the Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, introduced in both houses of Congress last month with bipartisan backing. The bills propose the standard things, like incentives for EV buyers and battery research grants.
But there's an ambitious twist: a plan to pick five EV startup communities that would get grants of up to $250 million to set up EV infrastructures.
Mike Granoff, head of oil independence policies for Better Place, says that has been the missing element. EV adoption depends on linked-up policy makers, automakers, utilities, battery companies and charging companies.
Granoff says the program could enable the United States to keep pace with aggressive moves by China, France and Germany. "What's most important is that we get into the electrification race," he says.
Not everyone is happy about the bills. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has criticized the concept of favoring a few communities that become EV-friendly.
The bigger issue will come a few years from now. At this stage it makes sense to stimulate interest and research. But eventually there be must true consumer "pull," without incentives.
Otherwise you're re-creating the failed business model of the Detroit 3: building uncompetitive vehicles and jamming them into the market with discounts.
And we know how that story ends.