President Barack Obama called for a 75 percent boost to the U.S. Department of Energy’s research budget today.
The increase would raise the DOE’s vehicle research budget to $575 million and would help fund the White House “EV Everywhere” initiative, which aims to make electric cars as convenient and available to average U.S. consumers as gasoline cars.
This isn’t Obama’s first gung-ho approach to green transportation. He also called for putting 1 million plug-in electric cars on roads by 2015, but has since backed off the goal.
Pumping money into green transportation has been a source of controversy as companies like A123 Systems, which took $249 million in federal grant money, went bankrupt and was bought by Chinese firm Wanxiang.
But building up incentives for EV purchases is proving to be a successful plan in other parts of the world. For example, Norway doesn’t levy import taxes on electric cars which helps reduce their price significantly. Not only that, but EV drivers enjoy free city parking and access to bus lanes to avoid heavy traffic.
Most recently, Nissan reported Leaf sales booming in Norway. Sales of its little electric car account for 1.7 percent of the total market – a massive margin compared to the U.S. where only 50,000 plug-in vehicles have been sold since 2011.
Then again, that success is based on encouraging people to buy electric cars, and the Obama plan gives money to the DOE’s research budget. Does plugging more money into making EVs translate to stronger green car sales? Not necessarily.
Automakers are asking big premiums for electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Nissan smartened up with the 2013 Leaf by dropping its price to $28,800. In 2012 they started at $35,200. The revised sticker combined with federal and state tax incentives mean the Leaf can come in under the $20,000 mark – a huge milestone for what many consider to be the industry benchmark in electric cars.
Discuss this story at GasStinks.com