Election-year politics delays development and progress of green vehicles

Article by Anita Panait, on April 4, 2012

The money, time and effort spent for creating and introducing environment-friendly vehicles may be paying off with the success of some companies who were able to develop cars. However, the pursuit to make the United States a haven for environment-friendly cars is taking a deep hit this year from politics as the country focuses on the upcoming presidential elections. After a push in 2007 by the US Congress to hike fuel economy standards, Michigan dangled a carrot in front of the auto industry to encourage them to develop green technology.

That carrot is the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, which offers low-interest loans for companies who will indulge in developing green vehicles. Companies like Ford Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and Tesla Motors have availed of the program, using the money to convert and retool their plants to suit up for productions of vehicles that does a little harm to the environment.

Some met success and some struggled while others shut down operations while waiting for funding. Fisker Automotive got some commitment but is currently struggling to get its production line running. The program so far has disbursed only less than half of the $25 billion available funding, and with the way politics is running the show, government support for green vehicles might see the end of the tunnel.

This year and the last, Republicans have been attacking the government’s decision to support this type of technology, says Autonews. Democrats and green-tech advocates, meanwhile, continue to defend the program, saying that politics is one of the reasons for its failure. They say that new loans are being hampered by political considerations and the program needs to be reworked. According to Roland Hwang, transportation program director for environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, what is currently happening is a general atmosphere of attack against government support for green tech.

What makes matters worst is that the electric vehicles aren’t attracting enough buyers. In March, General Motors was forced to suspend production of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid for more than a month to trim its inventories.  The company failed to achieve its 2011 sales target of 10,000 Volts, selling only 7,671 units. Rival Nissan only sold 9,674 all-electric Leafs in 2011. Even when combined, the Volt and Leaf only accounted for 0.1% of the total sales in the US market.

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