What challenges are facing electric vehicles right now?
The bankruptcy last week of A123 Systems, a Massachusetts-based advanced-battery manufacturer, has shone a scrutinizing limelight on electric vehicles and on the technology's ability to compete in an oil-dominated market with other alternative fuels, such as natural gas and hydrogen-fuel cells.
During his first run for the White House in 2008, Barack Obama promised to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. Just over 31,000 battery-powered and plug-in electric vehicles have been sold this year so far, which is a scant 0.28 percent of all vehicles sold this year. (Including conventional hybrids, that percentage goes up to 3.26 percent of cars sold this year.)
What should the federal government do, if anything, to get more electric vehicles on the road? Should Congress offer support for all types of alternatively powered cars, electric ones?
Like many new technologies, this sector seems caught in a chicken-and-the-egg cycle. To encourage more drivers to adopt electric cars, the market needs to produce more charging stations, But in order to jump-start more charging stations, the market needs to see more electric cars on the road. What role should Washington play to get the electric cars industry out of this dilemma?