The Congress Needs To Redirect the Federal Electric Vehicle Program

EMD-79-6: Published: Apr 9, 1979. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1979.

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The government is exploring the commercial potential of electric vehicles as one effort to reduce national oil consumption. Currently, transportation accounts for about half the oil consumed. Congress authorized $160 million for the program of research and development, vehicle demonstrations, and production incentives. Estimates of oil savings from electic vehicles range widely and depend on the number of vehicles ultimately in use. At the estimated level of commercialization, the Department of Transportation (DOT) believes 20,000 barrels of oil will be saved each day.

Before electric vehicles can be widely commercialized, the following advances will be necessary: (1) improve electric vehicle technology; (2) strengthen the electric vehicle; (3) establish an electric vehicle market; and (4) create an infrastructure necessary for the growth and continuance of electric vehicle use. The greatest barriers to successful electric vehicle commercialization are that they cost more and are less efficient than conventional vehicles. A number of problems with the electric vehicle program were found and it was concluded that the private sector demonstration effort is premature, research and development needs to be strengthened, and the small business program needs reexamination.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend existing legislation to provide more flexibility in both the timing of vehicle purchases and the number of vehicles demonstrated, and by removing the mandatory requirement to demonstrate a specific number of vehicles. Congress should consider the Secretary of Energy's report pursuant to the GAO recommendation and take appropriate actions to ensure that the recommendations are effectively carried out.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should: (1) postpone future demonstrations until technology improves and vehicle reliability, safety, and reasonable competitive life-cycle costs are shown; (2) use demonstration programs to identify major technical problems and safety hazards; (3) develop and report to Congress a reasonable strategy for the demonstration program; (4) continue to assign program funding priority to research and development; (5) ensure meaningful small business participation in the program by evaluating the results of the first planning grant awards; and (6) delay issuing loan guarantees for electric vehicle and component production until the vehicles are shown to be commercially viable.

    Agency Affected:


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