Is One Million Electric Cars By 2015 Too Ambitious?

John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010

John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010

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In a renewed push for clean energy, President Obama called for one million electric cars to be on American roads by 2015 last month. But is that goal realistic?

The government released a report this week saying that by its “conservative” estimates for 2015, the electric car supply in the U.S. will total 1.2 million cars. One eyebrow-raising note in its estimates, though: The report projects supply of the Nissan Leaf (pictured) in the U.S. this year to be 25,000 cars.

Nissan has reportedly delivered just 106 cars as of last week, although it says it’s ramping up production in March. The company has about 20,000 reservations, and reportedly 40 percent of those reservations have become purchases.

And, tough-to-predict Leaf deliveries or not, at least one group is predicting the country won’t reach that goal: Pike Research estimates that U.S. electric vehicle supply in 2015 will be closer to 841,000 cars.

“The vendor’s planned production of vehicles don’t often match demand, and while there is greater demand than the small supply today, we don’t expect that to continue very far into the future,” said John Gartner, Pike Research analyst. “For the one million figure to be reached, it would require either a faster reduction in the price of the batteries than has been forecast, or sustained federal incentives that offset their higher cost.”

U.S. Department of Energy projections on total plug-in cars on U.S. roads by 2015

U.S. Department of Energy projections on total plug-in cars on U.S. roads by 2015

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The government’s report could be conservative since it doesn’t include key automakers like Toyota, which has the plug-in Prius planned for 2012, and startup Coda, which says it wants to sell an ambitious 14,000 of its electric sedans in its first year of production (the car is slated to become available late this year).

According to the report, the all-electric Nissan Leaf and partially electric Chevrolet Volt (pictured) will make up a large part of the projected supply, with 120,000 Volts to be produced every year from 2012 to 2015, and 15,000 Volts to be made available this year. By the government’s estimation, the Leaf is expected to have 25,000 cars available this year in the U.S., then increase in supply each year until it totals 300,000 cars made for the U.S. by 2015.

Some agree with this optimistic outlook. Management consultancy PRTM’s North American automotive practice director Oliver Hamizeh said one million electric vehicles by 2015 is a “realistic goal” and argues that the “cool” in-car connectivity and monitoring features offered by electric cars will increase demand for the cars.

Still, electric car skeptics abound. Venture capitalist and billionaire Vinod Khosla has come out against electric cars many times, even arguing recently that by 2025, the world’s supply of lithium will not be enough to power the batteries needed for electric vehicles.

But Gartner dismissed that, saying, “The consensus is that lithium is in plentiful supply that even a few million EVs will take only a small fraction of the annual lithium (supply).”

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Comments (17)
  1. people will buy them as fast as they can be made.

  2. There are enough people at this point that realize the benefits of electric vehicles and line of thought will only grow in the coming years.
    I think the real question is production and price. Can the car companies build enough in a wide enough vehicle types and a price people can afford.

  3. If gas prices keep going up at the rate they have been in SoCal the last few weeks, no problem with the 1 million electrics IMHO.

  4. The only people buying them will be the early adopters. The only people thinking that they will sell one million EVs in the US by 2015 are the EVangelists.
    This is because the EVangelist uses emotion instead of reason. They think everyone should think the way they think.
    Getting the average consumer to buy a commuter car that has an 80 mile range, takes 8 hours to charge, and costs twice as much as a comparable car is pure fantasy.
    Not everyone has garages to charge. Not everyone has two vehicles for the EV to be the commuter. Many are ahead on their cars and don't want another new car payment. A petrol fillup takes 5 minutes and you can go 300-400 miles. To the park, the outback, the forest, up the coastal highway. any recreational area. 120 miles? No problem.
    Not so for the EV. Anything outside 40 miles one way is a dice roll.
    To expect one to wait hours at some remote charging station is ridiculous and impractical. People's time is worth more than that.
    This technology is limited at best right now and at its infancy to be seriously considered as an altenative to petrol powered vehicles.

  5. @EV Kinda looks like they are buying them faster than they can be made.
    They are more expensive but it seems the bulk of the price is upfront only leaving behind higher maint and fuel cost. One major bonus is making your own electricity is getting cheaper and you can't make your own gas.

  6. We just re-opened a big, old Lithium Mine up North for Carlos' Battery Pant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
    If you heard Mr. Ghosn's Renault address (Febuary 10th,2011)...they are eye balling Brazil and the Americas plural. A Renault Alliance is just a "Leaf" in sheep's clothing!
    In case the Oil Boys haven't heard...these "Electrics" have huge battery plants coming on stream in Tennesse, Turkey, Russia, England and Spain to aid Japan and France. This is only one Alliance. Don't look now but the know it alls (Honda and Toyota) are coming full electric also, along with Ford and GM.

  7. Missed the punch line...these battery plants are going to offer their surplus time to other car/battery companies.
    Correction: that should have been a Renault (Alliance) Fluence ZE.

  8. bert,
    you are looking with blinders on. most people, even with only one car, can easily do with OWNING a car that just goes 100 miles per charge. a million cars ? that is a drop in the bucket. absolutely ridiculous to think that there arent a million people that fit that description.
    as i have said many times in the past, options arent gonna appear on cars, nor is the price gonna come down, UNTIL IT NEEDS TO IN ORDER TO SELL MORE CARS.
    as christopher said, there is currently a huge surplus of buyers. as the surplus begins to dwindle, the price will begin to dwindle, the range will begin to increase.
    the cars are not twice as expensive by any means. first, people are getting tax rebates or straight rebates. secondly, much of the extra expense is prepaid fuel. and maintenance costs on an ev is WAY LOWER than a gas vehicle. it is an extremely shortsighted viewpoint to only compare the purchase cost.

  9. Bert #4
    Have you perhaps heard of the Chevrolet Volt?

  10. When America entered WWII, FDR said, "You guys are going to stop making cars, and makes tanks instead."
    And they did.
    It can totally be done.

  11. With EVs using only $1 of American electricity vs $3 + of 60% imported OIL this will help the economy and environment. If you charge Off Peak you use the excess energy that sometimes gets dumps at night.
    Just like cell phones and PC's they will get better, faster and cost less as they progress.

  12. I am anxious to see what the Gen 2 LEAF will have to offer. Especially after the TN battery plant and LEAF assembly line fires up. 2013? 300,000 LEAF’s? I would think the price will come down and the range increase. =) Good times…

  13. Are you serious? ONLY 1 million? that is WHAT percentage of the Gas market.??? NOTHING... you need to think in 10's of Millions.

  14. Noel Park - you are correct the Volt and plug in hybrids will satisfy all the needs above. I got a call from the Chevy dealership in Scottsdale AZ to come down and test drive a Volt. They have the MSRP posted on their website at $40,300. The Volt’s price will be coming down also.

  15. There are more than 20,000,000 electric bikes and motorcycles in China. I have had 3 electric bikes myself in the last eight years with the latest one having a range of around 80 km. They make 5 million ebikes a year in China just to keep the number current. So with a long range eBike costing 400 US and a high speed recharging machine to recharge it in 10 minutes costing around 100 US the cost of owning long range electric transportation is exeedingly cheap. They use eBike for transportation and also as delivery vans. so for leisure and business.

  16. "commuter car that has an 80 mile range, takes 8 hours to charge, and costs twice as much as a comparable car is pure fantasy."
    Thats right, it is purest fantasy. In fact it would take a few minutes to charge, and would probably cost less than the drinks for lunch, that you drank while celebrating the purchase of your new gas guzzler.
    and the poorest farmer in China has this technology to use, and it runs so cheap that even the poorest farmer in China is able to save money and put money in the bank. Thats why the poor farmers buy the eBikes, new technology transport for themselve and family and can take the produce to market as well and cost nothing in maintenece and charging the ebike. 10 minutes to charge. A major motor overhaul only takes a bottle of glue. Why the poorest farmer has this advanced capability and it is beyond the richest western capability to understand is unknown

  17. lithium is now serving dual cores pretty well

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