Electric Vehicles:

Limited Range and High Costs Hamper Commercialization

EMD-82-38: Published: Mar 19, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 1982.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the current state of electric vehicle development, the readiness and capability of the major automakers to develop and commercialize the vehicles including the impact of Government initiatives on the automakers, and the success of Federal efforts to advance their commercial readiness.

GAO found that currently available electric vehicles are improved over those of a few years ago, but they still have little potential for widespread commercialization. While performance, appearance, and quality have been advanced, limited range and high costs continue to make them noncompetitive with comparably sized conventional vehicles. In addition, industrial, infrastructure, and marketing barriers must be overcome. For the vehicles to be ultimately competitive with conventional vehicles, long-term, advanced batteries will have to be developed. To develop such batteries, the Department of Energy provided over $10 million in fiscal years 1981 and 1982. If electric vehicles are ever to be widely commercialized, the major automakers will have to be actively involved with the process. None of the automakers has begun the investment and procurement cycle necessary to bring a mass-produced electric vehicle to market. Only one automaker has made a public announcement that it intends to market them in the future. While the Federal program has succeeded in raising consumers' awareness of electric vehicles, aided some manufacturers, and helped produce technological improvements, only marginal progress has been made toward expediting commercialization. The demonstration program has failed to meet many of its objectives, much of the research and development activity has been devoted to developing vehicles that have had questionable practical value, and neither recipient of loan guarantees has met its sales and production milestones.

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