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Jordan Candler / February 1, 2016

Electric Vehicle Expectations Short Circuit

Barack Obama’s PEV goal by 2015 was off by 59%.

With the per-barrel cost of crude oil hovering below $35 and showing no signs of spiking, gasoline prices continue to drop. Today, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel is a remarkably low $1.79. The steady decline throughout 2015 no doubt propelled the auto market on its way to setting a new benchmark. Last month, the Associated Press reported that “U.S. auto sales hit a record high of 17.47 million in 2015, topping the old record of 17.35 million set in 2000.” The report added, “Analysts expect sales could go even higher this year as unemployment continues to decline and more young buyers enter the market.”

However, the outlook for the electric vehicle market is far less sublime. Recall this prediction from Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address: “With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.” But with 2015 in the history books, the report card is rustier than a decades-old junk car. According to statistics provided by hybridcars.com, a total of 411,120 plug-in electrified vehicles (PEV) have been purchased in the United States since 2008. Obama’s prediction would be right if he was talking globally — about 1.2 million PEVs have been sold worldwide — but he wasn’t, which means he only reached about 41% of his goal. In other words, good enough to earn an “F.” But who said anything about graded tests? This is government, after all.

The ironic thing is that both cheap gasoline and the struggling electric vehicle market are the result of failed policies. Instead of depending less on gasoline-powered vehicles, millions of Americans are buying them in droves despite Obama taking undeserved credit. And hybridcars.com notes, “Last year the U.S. purchased 2.8 percent fewer PEVs than it did in 2014.” No wonder Tesla CEO Elon Musk says “the industry as a whole, I think, will definitely suffer from lower oil prices.” The trends are completely opposite what Obama said they would be. But he’ll gladly take credit for them anyway. Only in government is missing your goal by 59% considered a success.

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