President Obama’s goal of 1 million hybrid and electric vehicles on the roads of the U.S. by 2015 may sound like a tall order given the slow sales rollout of plug-in cars for the first few months of 2012, but as we’ve discovered before, it isn’t impossible

Now Nissan, makers of the 2011 Nissan Leaf have joined the debate. Its opinion? Obama’s 1 million goal is achievable - but only if federal and state governments get involved.  

Andy Palmer, senior vice president at Nissan,  told attendees at a conference in New York on Wednesday that the number of alternative fueled vehicles on the roads would be directly affected by the number of refueling outlets available. 

BMW Active-E charging

BMW Active-E charging

“Carmakers can’t go and put hydrogen fueling and charging stations throughout the U.S.” Palmer said. “But the Government can”. 

At present, buyers of qualifying electric and plug-in hybrid cars can obtain up to $7,500 of federal tax credits to help offset the purchase of their vehicle, but a nationwide government scheme to install charging stations does not yet exist.

However, the Obama administration has diverted funds to privately-run charging station schemes, including ones ran by charge point manufacturers Coulomb Technologies, and Ecotality. 

But is Palmer right? Will sales of plug-in vehicles achieve the 2015 target if more charging stations appear?

2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - charging point

2012 Ford Focus Electric launch, New York City, January 2011 - charging point

We’re sure that the predicted number of electric and hybrid cars will exist on the road by 2015 if gas prices continue an upwards trend. But if the data collected by BMW is anything to go by, many electric car owners don’t even bother to charge away from home, making us doubt Nissan’s very assessment of the situation. 

What is clearly needed however, is a network of Level 3 rapid charge stations such as those being installed in Washington . Recharging cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf from empty to 80% full in as little as 30 minutes, they bring 200 mile+ trips within reach of any electric car owner and are worth far more to an electric car driver than any number of level 2 charge stations. 

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