Plug-In Electric Vehicles

Plug-In Electric Vehicles: What Role for Washington?

David B. Sandalow editor
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 260
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Plug-In Electric Vehicles
    Book Description:

    Plug-in electric vehicles are coming. Major automakers plan to commercialize their first models soon, while Israel and Denmark have ambitious plans to electrify large portions of their vehicle fleets. No technology has greater potential to end the United States' crippling dependence on oil, which leaves the nation vulnerable to price shocks, supply disruptions, environmental degradation, and national security threats including terrorism. What does the future hold for this critical technology, and what should the U.S. government do to promote it?

    Hybrid vehicles now number more than one million on America's roads, and they are in high demand from consumers. The next major technological step is the plug-in electric vehicle. It combines an internal combustion engine and electric motor, just as hybrids do. But unlike their precursors, PEVs can be recharged from standard electric outlets, meaning the vehicles would no longer be dependent on oil. Widespread growth in the use of PEVs would dramatically reduce oil dependence, cut driving costs and reduce pollution from vehicles. National security would be enhanced, as reduced oil dependence decreases the leverage and resources of petroleum exporters.

    Brookings fellow David Sandalow heads up an authoritative team of experts including former government officials, private-sector analysts, academic experts, and nongovernmental advocates. Together they explain the current landscape for PEVs: the technology, the economics, and the implications for national security and the environment. They examine how the national interest could be served by federal promotion and investment in PEVs. For example, can tax or procurement policy advance the cause of PEVs? Should the public sector contribute to greater research and development? Should the government insist on PEVs to replenish its huge fleet of official vehicles?

    Plug-in electric vehicles are coming. But how soon, in what numbers, and to what effect? Federal policies in the years ahead will go a long way toward answering those questions. David Sandalow and his colleagues examine what could be done in that regard, as well as what should be done.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0348-8
    Subjects: Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Throughout his historic campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama spoke of the challenge of oil dependence, describing it as central to “our economy, our security, and the very future of our planet.” Senator John McCain often sounded similar themes. We at Brookings consider energy policy in its many dimensions to be a top priority, with all five of our research programs—Governance Studies, Economic Studies, Foreign Policy, Metropolitan Policy, and Global Economy and Development—addressing the subject in different ways. It is also an issue that has engaged our trustees, led by Pulitzer Prize—winning author Daniel Yergin, who, in...

  4. Commentary
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. INTRODUCTION Plug-In Electric Vehicles: What Role for Washington?
    (pp. 1-8)

    Plug-in electric vehicles are coming. Major automakers plan to commercialize their first models soon. Israel and Denmark have ambitious plans to electrify large portions of their vehicle fleets. Hybrid vehicles—the precursor to plug-ins—are the most successful automotive innovation of the past decade, with more than 1 million now on U.S. roads and sales climbing sharply.

    This private sector technology could have important public benefits. Last year, oil provided more than 96 percent of the fuel for U.S. cars and trucks. This near-total dependence empowers our enemies, imperils the planet, and strains family budgets whenever oil prices rise. No...

  6. PART ONE Benefits

    • CHAPTER ONE Geopolitical Implications of Plug-in Vehicles
      (pp. 11-21)

      There are many aspects of our dependence on oil for 97 percent of our transportation needs that affect both our national security in a traditional sense and, through the contribution of oil to climate change, our security in a broader sense as well. Yet the oil industry continues to enjoy a monopoly on transportation, receiving over the years the support of substantial subsidies and maintaining a close working relationship with the auto industry. So successful is this partnership that whole categories of transportation and fuel technologies have fallen victim to its interests, from streetcars in the 1960s to electric vehicles...

    • CHAPTER TWO Electrification of Transport and Oil Displacement: How Plug-Ins Could Lead to a 50 Percent Reduction in U.S. Demand for Oil
      (pp. 22-44)

      With global oil consumption exceeding 85 million barrels a day and the price of oil about $50 a barrel, the cost of the world’s “oil addiction” now runs over $1.5 trillion a year.¹ U.S. consumption accounts for about 25 percent of total global volume. Most oil in the United States is used in transportation, particularly road transportation; therefore, under any scenario, achieving a meaningful reduction in the country’s dependence on oil requires radically reducing our vehicles’ consumption of petroleum.² Hybridization (combining an internal combustion engine with an electric motor) and electrification (connecting the motor in a vehicle to the electric...

    • CHAPTER THREE Pluggable Cars: A Key Component of a Low-Carbon Transportation Future
      (pp. 45-64)

      Plug-in electric vehicles are an essential element of any strategy for fighting global warming. Other elements—such as improved fuel efficiency, sustainable biofuels, and public transportation alternatives—also are important. But to achieve the needed reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases, we must power a growing number of vehicles with clean, renewable electricity. That requires an aggressive, farsighted plan to transform our electrical grid and vehicle fleet to better fit into a carbon- and oil-constrained world. Bridging the chasm between the fossil fuel—dependent present and a better future will generate good jobs, insulate our economy by making it less...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The CashBack Car
      (pp. 65-86)

      You’re out for a Sunday afternoon drive, enjoying the open road and the feeling of freedom that comes with that great American institution, the automobile. As you pull back into your driveway, you notice that the fuel gauge is nearing empty, so you do what is necessary for your local distributor to fill it up at home. Yes, they now make deliveries. They deliver at a convenient time when the price of fuel is the lowest, and the delivery is made without interruption or intrusion. At the end of the month you open the statement for the fuel that you...

  7. PART TWO Barriers

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Impact of Plug-In Hybrids on U.S. Oil Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
      (pp. 89-106)

      We estimate that plug-in hybrids could become the dominant technology for light vehicles sometime between 2030 and the second half of the twenty-first century.¹ With or without government intervention, we expect economics to have a significant role in determining whether and when it happens. From the economic perspective, buyers can be expected to select their vehicles on the basis of a comparison of costs and performance of plug-in hybrids, hybrids, and nonhybrid alternatives. With government intervention, the cost calculation will change. The change could well be the result of cost increases from policy-driven carbon or emission charges and cost reductions...

    • CHAPTER SIX Look Before You Leap: Exploring the Implications of Advanced Vehicles for Import Dependence and Passenger Safety
      (pp. 107-130)

      The sleek lines of the black Tesla Roadster glistened as it slid gracefully into a high-speed curve along California’s picturesque Pacific Coast Highway one evening in the summer of 2009. The whoosh of its tires was the only sound above a whisper, as its battery-powered electric motor and racing suspension propelled it rapidly along the precipice above the ocean’s edge. In the oncoming lane, the muscular outlines of a prototype Chevy Volt suggested that the thrills of the pony-car days might be returning to America’s roads.

      The emergence of this new generation of vehicles—powered by electric drivetrains with energy...

  8. PART THREE Policies

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Current Federal Authorized Programs on Plug-In Hybrids, Battery Electric Vehicles, and Related Efforts
      (pp. 133-155)

      Plug-in electric vehicles have emerged as a major policy focus in Congress and in the 2008 presidential election. This chapter traces the emergence of plug-in vehicle programs and recent legislative activity to establish a comprehensive guide to federal policy on plug-in transportation. The chapter details more than forty existing provisions, including tax breaks and other consumer and fleet purchase incentives; manufacturing incentives; authorizations for research, development, and demonstrations; and programs for other types of electric vehicles and electric transportation issues (buses, trains, forklifts and electrification of truck stops and shipping ports). The chapter also details recent regulations, executive orders, and...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Tax Credits for Electric Cars: Stimulating Demand through the Tax Code
      (pp. 156-169)

      Tax policy and energy policy have long been interrelated, and the connection has grown stronger with the emergence of energy policy as one of the nation’s most pressing issues. This chapter reviews one specific aspect of energy tax policy—tax credits for the purchase of energy-efficient vehicles—and comments on recently passed legislation creating a tax credit for plug-in cars. The chapter concludes by recommending guidelines for future changes to the tax credit for electric vehicles.

      Congress has a long tradition of using the tax code to further various energy policies, including such examples as tax incentives for oil and...

    • CHAPTER NINE Cost-Effectiveness of Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions from Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
      (pp. 170-191)

      Cars and light trucks in the United States consume about 8 million barrels of gasoline per day, which is more than the total amount of petroleum produced in the United States and accounts for 18 percent of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Consumption and emissions have been rising at about 1.5 percent per year.¹

      Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could alter these trends. On a vehicle technology spectrum that stretches from fossil fuel—powered conventional vehicles (CVs) through hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) to all-electric vehicles (AEVs), PHEVs fall between the latter two types: they can run either in gasoline-fueled hybrid electric...

    • CHAPTER TEN Federal Policy Options to Support Early Electric Vehicle Deployment by Reducing Financial and Technological Risks
      (pp. 192-207)

      Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) represent one of the most promising near-term technologies to reduce U.S. dependence on oil and cut the carbon footprint of our transportation sector. Yet despite their enormous potential, progress toward mass commercialization has been slowed by a variety of roadblocks, primarily related to technology, risk, and cost.

      This chapter identifies a number of obstacles to commercialization of PEVs, with a specific focus on how automakers’ concerns over battery safety, durability, longevity, and cost have slowed adoption of this technology and delayed deployment across the U.S. fleet. The chapter then discusses in detail three complementary federal policy...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Electric Vehicles: How Do We Get Millions on the Road?
      (pp. 208-222)

      “This is not the time for niche vehicles,” says Bob Lutz, the outspoken vice chairman of General Motors. How right he is. The United States and the rest of the world will enjoy the significant oil security and climate benefits of plug-in electric vehiclesonly ifindustry produces them and consumers buy themin vast numbers. For that to happen, we must find a way to reduce or eliminate the upfront costs of the battery and the charging infrastructure—the two main barriers to developing a strong electric vehicle (EV) market. To get there, we need new business models that...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Electric Utility Issues in Replacing Oil with Electricity in Transportation
      (pp. 223-239)

      Imagine a business that made a fuel that could replace petroleum in cars and trucks for less than the cost of gasoline at a dollar a gallon—a fuel that would emit far less CO₂ than gasoline, virtually end urban pollution from cars, cut the U.S. trade deficit by a billion dollars a day, and significantly improve national security. Such a business would be expected to go all out to work with automakers to produce cars that used the fuel, relentlessly lobby Congress to remove roadblocks and create incentives to facilitate a fast transition to its use, and widely advertise...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Promoting Use of Plug-In Electric Vehicles through Utility Industry Acquisition and Leasing of Batteries
      (pp. 240-248)

      Petroleum is the predominant transport fuel in the United States. It is supported by a vast and ubiquitous infrastructure, it is easy to transport, and until recently it was relatively inexpensive. But as prices continue to rise, there is greater recognition of the destabilizing geopolitical effect of the country’s overdependence on petroleum. Looming federal greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation will add to the price of petroleum-based fuels in the years to come, and it provides greater motivation to address transportation GHG emissions today. While multiple alternatives are being sought, one of the most promising near-term solutions—one that will leverage existing...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 249-250)
  10. Index
    (pp. 251-260)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-262)