This week has seen some great media responses to the president's State of the Union challenge to get a million electric vehicles (EVs) on American roads by 2015, and we're excited to see fresh momentum behind this aspect of the green Next Economy. Can we reach Obama's goal of one million electric cars by 2015? Yep.
But there are skeptics. Wired has a good piece up correctly pointing out that a million is a huge percentage increase considering "exactly two automakers sell mass-market EVs at the moment. General Motors sold 326 Chevrolet Volts last month, while Nissan sold 87 Leafs. (Yes, the plural is Leafs, says Nissan.)" To that I will add the approximately 1,000 Tesla Roadsters that have been sold in the U.S., but the ballpark 1,500 total hardly registers on the way to a million, and is immaterial next to the "roughly 251 million vehicles on the road in the United States." The article presents a good list of pros (government incentives, peak oil) and cons (auto industry group says we probably can't get there, untested market), and ends by concluding, "w]hether they’ll meet the needs of one million consumers within four years remains to be seen, and will depend upon how hard the government, the auto industry and the public are willing to work to make it happen." I'll take my conclusion right from the article's URL (if not quite the title), "One Million EVs Is Difficult But Doable and Necessary."
The DOE’s official report on the president’s goal, also out this week, is more optimistic (it fuels a lot of Wired's 'pros' list), figuring there'll be 1.2 million EVs on the road by Obama's deadline. DOE based its projection on car makers' own estimates of how many units they expect to deliver into the U.S. market by that date, and added that the 1.6 million hybrids that hit American roads in the past six years is a good sign about U.S. consumer capacity. Looking over DOE's list, my view is that some manufacturers are being very optimistic, but others (including some that I know have EV plans) aren’t represented at all. So I believe there's a good chance their figure will come out in the car wash.
So, yes, we think there will be at least a million EVs on the road by 2015. We think that the trend will only accelerate from there, and we think a lot of companies along the EV value chain will do very well, too. And we're not especially concerned about what any oil executive might say to the contrary -- because, in the end, it's not like we have the option to "abandon Earth."
Garvin Jabusch is the cofounder of Green Alpha Advisors, LLC and manages The Sierra Club Green Alpha Portfolio -- a unique blend of Green Alpha Advisors' Next Economy universe and the Sierra Club's proprietary green-investment guidelines.