Political opponents of President Barack Obama used to sneer, "So how's that hopey-changey stuff workin' for ya, huh?"

You don't hear that so much any more, but 18 months after the first plug-in cars went on sale in the U.S., it's worth looking at a different question.

Will the Obama Administration's electric-vehicle incentives, along with notably tougher fuel-efficiency requirements for 2017-2025 vehicles, let him fulfill his campaign pledge to put 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015?

Last year, about 17,500 plug-in vehicles were sold in the U.S. This year, the total is likely to be double that or slightly more.

But that still leaves us roughly 940,000 vehicles in the hole, with just three years (2013 through 2015) to get them on the road.

A recent post from analyst Pike Research suggests that Obama's total of 1 million will be reached--but probably not until 2018.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Pike is hardly the first analyst to suggest that Obama's total was a stretch goal; as early as last spring, some had already deemed it unachievable.

By the end of 2015, Pike calculates, five year's worth of sales will have put roughly 410,000 plug-ins on U.S. roads. Adding 600,000 more, it says, will take just three more years.

Based on its own projections--developed from scores of interviews with carmakers, lithium cell companies, and others--Pike says plug-in vehicle sales will surge at least through 2020, reaching global totals of almost 2 million units per year.

That's the year that California wants to see its own 1 million plug-ins on the state's roads.

“While plug-in electric vehicles have seen delays in arriving on the market and sold in [lower] numbers than originally anticipated," said Pike's research director, John Gartner, "we expect strong growth as global plug-in electric vehicle sales will nearly triple between 2012 and 2014."

Electric-car advocates, many frustrated by what feels like a slow pace of adoption, can take heart in Gartner's conclusion.

“Automotive companies have made a strong commitment to electric vehicles," Gartner said firmly, "and their viability as a transportation platform is no longer in doubt.”


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