WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration and the electric-vehicle industry agree that they must turbocharge sales efforts to meet the president’s goal of having 1 million EVs on the road by 2015, the head of the Electric Drive Transportation Association said.
Brian Wynne, president of the group, said he and other association board members met with White House staff Tuesday to request appointment of an interagency task force to help manage federal efforts to promote development of plug-in hybrids and EVs.
At the one-hour meeting, both sides also agreed that electric-vehicle manufacturers have an opportunity to expand their markets if they can persuade state and local governments to buy more EVs for their fleets, Wynne said.
“I don’t think meeting the 2015 goal is going to happen unless we do something different,” Wynne said in an interview Wednesday at the associations' conference here. “It requires the industry and government to collaborate and move faster. The White House is doing its best to move forward, and we’ll do our part.”
A White House spokesman had no immediate comment.
Obama’s target, enunciated most prominently in his State of the Union speech in January, has become a symbol of the president’s commitment to EV development.
EDTA board members who attended the White House meeting on Tuesday included lobbyists for Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler and Honda, a list of participants showed. Three White House staff members attended, including presidential assistant Heather Zichal, who also is overseeing development of 2017-2025 fuel economy and emission standards.
Wynne said the industry board members reiterated a July request for an Energy Department-led task force that would include the EPA, the Department of Transportation and other agencies.
Second task force
The July letter also called for formation of a second task force, consisting of public- and private-sector members, “to collaboratively address challenges” rather than having them dealt with piecemeal.
Wynne said such task forces could be useful if, for example, Congress were to consider a tax on EVs to help finance the troubled Highway Trust Fund. The Oregon state Legislature is considering a tax on EV drivers, though no such proposal has yet been raised in Congress, he said.
Both sides at the meeting agreed that manufacturer sales to state and local government fleets presented an opportunity, Wynne said.
Obama said last month that starting in 2015, all new cars and trucks bought by the federal government would be hybrids, EVs and other alternative-fuel vehicles. U.S. agencies operate more than 600,000 fleet vehicles.
State and local agencies together have many more vehicles than that, Wynne said.
Help with standards
Luis Manuel Ramirez, CEO of GE Energy Industrial Solutions, said the government and the private sector also need to develop national and international industry standards if the Obama goal is to be reached.
“The administration gets it,” Ramirez said at the conference yesterday. “Other countries are going to meet the U.S. goal before we do.”
The standards that need to be developed would cover a range of matters, including batteries, vehicles, charging infrastructure and electric grids, said Ramirez, who is not on the EDTA board and did not attend the White House meeting.
In February, an Indiana University study headed by a retired Ford executive found that the United States may already lag Asia in EV development. There may not be 1 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2020, let alone 2015, without greater federal intervention, the study said.