The NY Times Wheel blog interviewed a number of analysts, including me, about “The Candidates’ Clean Car Plans.” These plans include McCain’s $300 million challenge for a next-generation battery, and Obama’s “more detailed plan” whose cornerstone is “an ambitious goal to put a million plug-ins on the road by 2015.”
I have never had much love for McCain’s pointless prize (see “McCain proposes another energy gimmick. Is this $300M to ExxonMobil?“). Turns out not many other experts do either:
“The key technology is lithium-ion batteries,” said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan. “We know how to make them, but not inexpensively. So each generation is better than the last, and nobody is going to jump to fill orders for a million units and then find out their investment is wiped out because we’ve since developed something much better. A million plug-in hybrids by 2015 is probably a stretch. Is it impossible? No, but it’s very difficult.”
Mr. McCain’s $300 million “is small change in this business,” Mr. Cole added. “It’s not insignificant, but it’s the cost of a paint shop in an auto factory.”
Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, agrees. “Our industry in the U.S. spends more than $18 billion per year on research and development,” Mr. Territo said. “There are some manufacturers who have estimated they spend as much as $1 million an hour investing in new technologies. The McCain initiative is helpful, but these manufacturers are already spending billions of dollars bringing plug-in hybrids and other advanced technologies to the market.”
According to the NYT‘s Jim Motavalli, I am one of the “optimists out there” [and here you all thought I was one of the pessimists out there]:
“I do think the one million vehicles by 2015 is a reasonable goal,” said Joseph Romm, an author who served as acting assistant secretary of energy for efficiency and renewable energy in the Clinton administration. “Half of all new federal car purchases by 2012 is probably trickier, because it’s a ramp-up issue. But I would add that there is hardly a point in running for president if you can’t advance stretch goals.”
Mr. Romm called Mr. McCain’s battery prize “a joke” because “every energy and car company on the planet knows they’ll get rich by improving batteries.”
Okay, maybe the battery price isn’t a joke because it’s not really that funny. Unless of coarse ExxonMobil ends up with the money, which I think we’d all have to admit would be pretty hilarious in a gallows humor sort of way.
But I do think it is an essential truth that the next president needs stretch goals for this country, especially after eight years of chronic underachievement thanks to chronically underachieving presidential leadership.
- Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence
- Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution
- Plug in Hybrids are Green (Duh!)
- Hybrid production costs may drop two-thirds within 10 years
- The energy tax credits in the bailout bill, Part 1: Solar power and plug in hybrids win big
- Has GM overdesigned the Volt: Is a 40-mile all electric range too much?
- All things Chevy Volt, including the new House tax credit for plug ins
- Chrysler, Mazda, Hyundai, and Nissan announce plug-ins — Honda stands alone against PHEVs
- Why I don’t agree with James Kunstler about peak oil and the “end of suburbia”