back to article Obama: 1m electric cars on US roads by 2015, please

Presumably choosing to do it not because it is easy but because it is hard - well, hard-ish - the Obama White House yesterday declared that it “hopes” to create a $7000 tax credit for the purchase of alternative vehicles and get one million plug-in hybrid cars – or any cars capable of 150mpg or more - that's 186+ in Imperial mpg …


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  1. Tim

    Imperial Gallons.....

    are bigger than US gallons, so an Imperial MPG reading would have to be 177.6+.....

  2. Eric Hood

    Pelosi Car

    This will sort it all out.

  3. Aram

    Salutary tale featured in South Park episode

    There's an SP episode (season 10, 2nd or 3rd episode) that features electric cars and their inherent dangers.

    It involves people becoming so smug that they care *so much* about the environment (solely because they drive around in a Toyota "Pious") that they create huge smug clouds over both San Franciso and South Park.

    These smug clouds then collide, reach a critical mass and are pushed over the edge by the smug cloud created by an awards acceptance speech from George Clooney.

    The results are catastrophic for South Park.

    You have been warned: break out the SUVs pronto!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about fuel cell technology

    Hydrogen fuel cell tech is probably going to provide the best (and safer, compared to battery technology) way to get modern performance that corresponds with the best cars using petrol. You just have to lok at the mobile battery sation that is the Tesla - takes the best part of 6 hours for a full charge and has a max range of 200 miles - and weighs about the same as a room full of elephants. Whereas the Honda hydrogen absed car, being trialled in California, has only a few moving parts, does about 30-35 mpg - giving a range of almost 300 miles and takes about the smae to fill up as a pertol/diesel based vehicle.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    A thought provoking article discussing why the shift to electric lithium battery powered vehicles may bring about new environmental opposition.

    In the post-carbon hubris its important to remember that ideally a shift to any new "clean" technology should avoid repeating the mistakes of previous ones.

    Paris, because unlike Bolivians she enjoys getting shafted.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    "Fiat has acquired a 35 per cent stake in troubled US car maker Chrysler. "

    Crap small car, meet crap large car!

  7. Iani Ioannidis

    Why electric?

    I am very impressed with the speed in which the new "planetarch" made his first green commitment. It is a very welcome sign.

    I am just worried whether or not he has looked at the issue closely or at all.

    The sustainable and eco-responsible future for cars has moved on from electric to hydrogen powered cars. The cost is less, the benefits are higher and as an eco-responsible automotove solution hydrogen power is more sustainable than electric power.

    Is he just misinformed or is there a hidden driven by the automotive lobbies of US to make a quick buck?

  8. TMS9900

    And of course...

    ...where America leads, the rest of the world will follow...

    Oh the Irony.

    In the UK, the NuLab Reich have been hammering the motorist for ten years - speed cameras (another tax), road tax, tax on insurance, VAT on insurance, tax at the fuel pump, toll roads, pay-as-you-drive, pay to park, and congestion charge. So, the public gives in, says "OK, you win, sod it, it's too expensive, I'm not buying another car." Now, they're propping up the foreign owned car companies with cash injections (yet they weren't interested in saving Rover) and telling us to go out and buy cars that are too expensive to run because of the fuckton of tax placed on them, that we don't need with money we haven't got and credit that we can't obtain.

    Next, they'll place seventeen fucktons of tax on petrol and diesel cars to force us to go out and buy electric cars that we don't want, with money that we don't have. The *incentive* will be it's less tax hungry. The line spun at you by the government will be 'it's more green'. Which leads me onto my next point: Electricity capacity. Where is all the leccy gonna come from when World + Dog squared plugs in his car at night to charge it up for the morning? Say goodbye to the 'off-peak' electricity rate, as the rate of electricity consumed during the night while the nation sleeps dwarfs daylight consumption.


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately obama and friends have not clue

    It's discouraging to see that Obama and friends in Congress couldn't buy a clue with Bill Gates' money. While electric vehicles are useful for city driving, they are impractical for a high percentage of commuters in America. Eventually there will be a small force of electric city vehicles in operation but it will be tiny compared to the actual number of vehicles on the roads daily. No infrastructure currently exists to recharge these vehicles at work or stores, malls, parking garages, etc. even if the cars were available, which for the most part they are not. Hybrids appear to be the best option at the moment and for the majority of people.

    While Obama could create a stable U.S. economy by stimulating permanent jobs in hybrids, alternative energy, electronics and many other areas via tax incentives and loans, instead he plans to throw a TRILLION dollars of tax payer money at short term welfare jobs, while raising the national debt to $15 Trillion.

    These cronies are looking out for all the PACT money they can steal, not for a health America.

  10. Erik Aamot

    geeze louise

    how many kilowatts per day per electric car ? .. probably more an energy efficient home(?) .. electricity is NOT emisions free .. 50% is from coal burning in US ..

    a million ? .. about 0.5 % of number of vehicles in US .. replacing mostly small autos that already get much better milage than the average vehicle .. reduction in oil use maybe 0.3 %

    How about this ? ... government pays $7000 for every vehicle that gets less than 30 mpg that is more than 10 years old, $5000 of which must be used as down payment to purchace of new or less-than-5 year old vehicle that gets better than 30 mpg ..

    increase the mpg requirement of the purchaced autos 1 mpg per year

    scrap them all and require the steel to be reprocessed in the US for the new vehicles and energy efficient appliances .. all manufactured in North America

    I'll bet you'd turn over 10 million less efficient cars for more efficient cars per year, add 2-3 million in new car sales per year and imagine all the jobs ...

    10 million per year .. about 5% of vehicles going from 20 mpg to 30 mpg+ .. or .. about 1.5% reduction in petroleum use per year for road vehicles .. in 20 years you could concievably have 80% of US autos getting 50 mpg+, and reduce petroleum use for autos by 30% or more

    all for a paltry $70 billion per year, with just about all the money going into jobs and personal pockets .. all taxed economic activity making the net cost to the taxpayers much less.

    $70 Billion per year wouldn't even cover the improvements in the electric grid and expansion of generating capacity you'd need to do, to turn over 10 million gas to electric vehicles per year, which wouldn't be possible at all for at least 10 years.

  11. Francis Irving

    Electric because it is cheaper

    You're welcome to make it expensive to fill up at the pump with hydrogen if you like, but I'd put my money on electric winning, because it's cheaper.

    Electric cars are much more energy and cost efficient across the whole system (including electricity/hydrogen generation and making batteries) than hydrogen.

    For the same reason, electric cars immediately reduce carbon emissions, even if you're still using old tech like coal to generate the power, you'll be using less of it.

    Details in the excellent book Without Hot Air

  12. Steve Todd

    @AC - Hydrogen safer than battery power?

    You have got to be joking! It's just another way of storing energy, and it's as least as dangerous (especialy since it is is impossible (currently at least) to store it without leakage. Leave your shiny new car in an unventilated garage and you stand the risk of fire or explosion).

    As for hydrogen being simpler, either you use it very inefficiently as a fuel for a conventional IC engine, which is fairly complex in it's own right, or you use a very complicated and expensive fuel cell to convert it to electricity, at which point it uses the same drive systems as battery cars.

    The Tesla isn't much heavier than a conventional Lotus Elise BTW, and when the Top Gear team took it around their test track it was only 0.1 seconds slower than an Aston Martin DB9, and 8.4 seconds faster than the Elise (OK, it did it's lap in the wet, but that's only supposed to be worth an extra 4 seonds).

  13. Adam Foxton
    Thumb Down

    @Iani Ioannidis

    I'm sorry, what?

    Hydrogen powered cars would be great if they used a normal ICE designed to work with hydrogen- but they don't. They use fuel cells- which give higher energy efficiencies than the ICE and allows the use of electric motors as an actual drive method. Which is also good.

    Unfortunately, they also require Platinum (which is rather expensive and in short supply- which means it'll get more expensive as demand rises) to make their fuel cells work. Oh, and the real killer- combine the losses from power generation, converting that power to H2, shipping/piping the H2- as well as the losses in the Fuel Cell, transmission and motors- and you're talking about an overall 30% efficiency. Compared to 69% for all-electric cars.

    All of which means that you'd need (about) 3x as many wind turbines/solar cells/tide generators to power a hydrogen car as you would to power an all-electric car. And given that renewables always take up loads of room

    Plus electrolysis of seawater- the best solution as freshwater electrolysis is more difficult and would be using our drinking water- means there'd be a load of corrosive salty sludge left to go back into the sea- which means hyper-salinisation around the electrolysis plants. And the death of loads of acquatic life.

    So using hydrogen cars needs vastly more (scarce- I'm assuming the use of renewables here) energy, creates corrosive sludge and uses hugely expensive materials in its manufacture. And needs to be transported at 100s of bars of pressure to get a decent volumetric energy density.

    My source for the facts and figures was the New Scientist lying on my bathroom floor this morning- the one about the fizzling out of the hydrogen economy. It also quotes a price of about $3k or £3k for the amount of platinum required for the FCX's fuel cell. That's a £3k surplus on top of the cost of pressured piping and a big-ass pressure vessel that can withstand a bus hitting it without exploding. And won't flex under that pressure or corrode- cos if it does you'll have fatigue failures in about 10 years that'll start costing lives.

    'Course, batteries are going to make us hit peak Lithium pretty quickly- someone who can create a lithium reclaimation process from used batteries (and allowing it to be made into new batteries) could make a lot of money!

    I'm glad that Obama can see sense rather than hype. It bodes well for the rest of his presidency, though it'll probably mean it won't last more than a single term.

  14. ian

    @Steve & @Iani

    I agree that fuel cells are the future of automotive propulsion and they always have been. Like fusion power, fuel cell cars are a decade away and have been for decades. I've been waiting for my fuel cell powered car, but I'll take a plug-in hybrid if its the only option.

    I've completely given up on the fusion-powered flying car.

  15. Max

    @Why electric?

    My guess on this is the following: (a) most people don't know/care about the difference between hydrogen/hybrid/electric as long as it saves them money and relieves the dependence from foreign oil, and (b) 'elecrtic' is just generalizing to keep it simple for the masses, saying anything else may cause confusion. I'm sure if someone can create a hydrogen hybrid engine to get 150mpg by 2015, the administration will be equally as happy as if someone reaches the same goal with biodiesel or any another non fossil fuel derivative.

    Although I don't know enough about the technical details of getting a vehicle up to that efficiency, I am somewhat skeptical of the very tight timeframe. Lets just hope he doesn't expect Ford or GM to innovate at that pace and give them money to do so. As the innovation will most likely come from a fast moving startup or individual.

    In any case, I don't know of a single middle class American who wouldn't trade in their current vehicle for a shiny new gas saver and $7000 the proclamation definitely hits the right spot!

  16. Sandmich

    It's all bunk

    Ethanol starves people, electric will only last as an idea until they have to evacuate a city block because one of them caught on fire, and hydrogen is the worst of all:

    "Hydrogen is only a source of energy if it can be taken in its pure form and reacted with another chemical, such as oxygen. But all the hydrogen on Earth, except that in hydrocarbons, has already been oxidized, so none of it is available as fuel. If you want to get plentiful unbound hydrogen, the closest place it can be found is on the surface of the Sun; mining this hydrogen supply would be quite a trick. "


  17. Adam Nealis
    Black Helicopters

    Re: What about fuel cell technology?

    AC said:

    "Hydrogen fuel cell tech is probably going to provide the best ..."

    Commercial hydrogen has the problem of a rubbish EROEI. the energy (remember, energy, not money, is fundamental). And how do we store/ pipe/ transport/ pump into your vehicle the stuff?

    "... (and safer, compared to battery technology)"

    I'm with you on the Li-polymer stuff being "unsafe". But have a look at LiFePO4. Clearly superior to Li-polymer in terms of recharge times, duty cycles, charge memory, ...

    "way to get modern performance that corresponds with the best cars using petrol."

    What kind of performance? Power economy or fuel economy?

    IMHO fuel economy is more important right now.

  18. Eddie Johnson


    Electricity is not an energy source, it is just a delivery method.

    You still have to generate that electricity and since the odds are that it will be generated with coal or natural gas you've probably made the pollution problem worse due to the efficiency losses and the relative looseness of pollution controls for 30 year old power plants versus typically more modern catalytic equipped automobiles.

    But, hey, rhetoric sells. Break out the buzzwords.

    Flames. Because ultimately they are involved in the generation of 99% of our energy.

  19. rc

    @Why electric

    I think you may have it backwards Iani...

    Hydrogen power is somewhat of a pipedream at this point. Hydrogen is produced by the oil refining industry and by electrolysis, which uses massive amounts of electricity that has to be generated somehow. Hydrogen is an explosive, odorless, colorless, gas. This presents all kinds of problems in transport and storage that are expensive to solve.

    If we are using less oil, then the amount of hydrogen produced from refineries would be reduced. If we use electrolysis than a power plant is required. The conversion process both ways is not 100% so power is lost when you make the hydrogen and power is lost when you consume it.

    As we already have electricity infrastructure in place (though not enough if we were all driving electric cars). It makes more sense to focus on pure electrics. There is less loss in conversion and much less cost in logistics.

    A pure electric vehicle is also much simpler and potentially much more reliable than either a hydrogen internal combustion or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. There are less parts to break or wear out and you get rid of a bunch of nasty fluids that you have to change. Maintainance parts such as air filters, oil filters, pcv valves, spark plugs.... Gone.

    I think this is probably the real reason we haven't seen more electrics. The dealer mechanics are a pretty serious chunk of revenue to lose. Not that they would dissapear, but when is the last time you did an oil change or a tune up on your fridge?

    I think the way forward is pure electrics. We should focus on storage tech. The lithium batts are getting better and carbon nanotube ultracaps are getting better and cheaper. These in combination are probably what you will see next. The carbon nanotube material can be made in sheets now so I could even see molding capacitors as body panels, fenders, etc. Of course then a fender bender would reduce your range, or weld you to your hapless victim.

    re "planetarch"

    No, its just President and he's ours, get your own media messiah, hehe.

  20. Iani Ioannidis

    RE: @Why electric

    Thanks to all who replied for the constructive challenges to my opinion. Please understand that my intention was not to rubish electic powered cars as a viable and sustainable automotive solution.

    First thing first - I believe that IF _today_ the automotive industry was asked to stop producing petrol or diesel cars, then electric would be the most likely way to go.

    My problem with the "platetarch's" (controversial title, I know!) comment is this:

    I do expect the powers-that-are to gather data, facts and evidence and then debate, analyse and assess all the options carefuly. This is a very important topic and it will affect the way we live our lives for decades. We should be backing the right technology for the future and not jumping on to whateverl looks good today.

    I am very worried that such quick decision will mean that we will be investing in the _wrong_ (ET or HT) technology. And by 2015 it would be too late to switch the the _right_ (ET or HT) one - missing out in all of the potential benefits.

    I do not think that a proper scientific debate took place yet: i.e. Electric technology (ET) vs Hydrogen technology (HT) as a technology for the FUTURE of automotion

    My personal opinion is that, by 2015, HT will be preferable to ET in terms of practicality, cost, sustainability, environmental impact and the ability to deploy at a large scale.


    - Although HT is less mature than ET, it is more promising on paper and requires more investment and support (i.e from Obama) to achieve its potential

    - HT challenges (including many of the ones mentioned in replies to my original post) are being addressed (just do a google search. e.g. as most of the key stakeholders are investing in HT R&D.

    - California's HT pilot seems to be successful.

    Happy to take this discussion ot a forum if people like to discuss further.

  21. Brian Hall

    Tesla Power

    Tesla Motors should have that many on the road by then on its own. So far, selling the Roadster and even hotter Sportster, and later this year the Model S sedan, and a year or two later a family 5-seater -- all 100% electric, 250MPG, with ranges from 150-250 miles per charge-up, increasing rapidly as battery tech improves ( it could jump a factor of 10 in the next few years as nanowire fabrication takes off ). Cost about 2¢ (1p) per mile, all-in, to drive (assuming use of off-peak reduced power rates for charge-ups).

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