As the all-electric Nissan Leaf continues to roll out, the company is indicating that government should play a larger roll in funding the installation of the needed infrastructure to support more electric cars on the road.
At a recent press conference in New York, Andy Palmer, Senior Vice President at Nissan, said that President Obama's goal of getting one million electric cars on US roads by 2015 was reasonable if the government invested more in reaching that goal.
Citing that the amount of next generation electric and hydrogen cars that consumers buy will be directly tied in to how many places there are to refill them, Palmer told journalists, “Carmakers can’t go and put hydrogen fueling and charging stations throughout the US, but the government can.”
The US has already invested hundreds of millions in programs to build out electric car infrastructure–the largest of which is the joint Federal-Private EV Project – and has committed to buying tens of thousands of hybrid and electric cars for government fleets, but Palmer doesn’t think this is enough.
“Government fleets create momentum, but they’re not the be all and end all,” Palmer said. “The more vehicles you get out into customer hands, the more people start to understand that an electric car is not the same as a golf cart.”
GE, which has recently committed to buying 25,000 plug-in vehicles for its commercial fleets around the world, concurs with Palmer about the need to get as many into consumers’ hands as possible. “What’s important when you’re deploying a technology like this is scale,” said Luis Ramirez, CEO of GE Energy Industrial Solutions, in an interview with AutoTrader. “You have to have enough vehicles and enough penetration of vehicles in a concentrated area for it to work.”
But with companies like GE leading the charge for electric cars, some question whether government money is necessary, or if there’s a way private businesses can drive the demand for these technologies and the roll out of the needed infrastructure.
In Texas, NRG Energy is pushing ahead with plans to open an extensive network of charging stations for electric cars–billed as the nation’s first privately funded electric car charging ecosystem. At the opening of the first eVgo network fast charging station, NRG Energy CEO David Crane said, “We’re building out this infrastructure without any public funding and with our own private dollars. We’re doing that because we see this as immense economic opportunity to be a first mover in the fueling infrastructure.”