WASHINGTON -- President Obama's goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015 will be met only if automakers emphasize fleet sales -- to UPS, taxi companies and the like -- over sales to consumers, an analyst said today.
Consumers will likely be reluctant to buy EVs on that scale because of shortcomings in the nation's recharging infrastructure, said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive in Lexington, Mass.
“There's going to be perpetual range anxiety,” Lindland said in an interview after a speech at the Washington auto show. She was referring to motorists' worries, in the absence of abundant recharging stations, as the battery charge in their vehicle dwindles.
By 2015, she forecasts, retail sales of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid will total slightly over 60,000, while those of the Nissan Leaf electric sedan will be about 60,000. While Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., Fiat S.p.A and other automakers also are preparing to sell EVs in the United States, their combined sales are still likely to fall far short of Obama's target, Lindland said.
Automakers should market instead to delivery and taxi companies whose drivers travel short, fixed routes that will not test the limited range of some EVs, she said.
In his State of the Union speech this week, Obama repeated his 2008 campaign goal to encourage wider EV sales to increase fuel economy, reduce pollution and decrease U.S. dependence on imported oil.
Two Michigan Democrats proposed legislation to more than double the scope of a program that gives consumers $7,500 in tax incentives for buying plug-in electric vehicles.
A consumer activist said today Obama's target was “an entirely achievable goal” if the government sets high fuel economy standards for 2017-25 vehicles.
“That would tell the industry what the path is,” Mark Cooper, research director for the Consumer Federation of America, said at the auto show. “Expanding EV production would help it stay on that path.”
In October, the administration made a preliminary proposal to boost fuel economy goals for automakers' fleets to between 47 mpg and 62 mpg for 2017-25 vehicles. A final decision is expected in the summer of 2012.