Is Obama clueless about electric cars?

President Obama’s moon shot – a Kennedyesque call to have 1 million plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) on U.S. roads by 2015 – is certainly bold and welcome, but most likely out of reach.

At least, that’s the conclusion of an Indiana University study put together by a panel of experts primarily from the auto industry and research institutions.

The report sees problems on both the supply and demand fronts. 

Automakers are not planning to build that many electric vehicles in the next four years, the report says, and the one thing that might spur them to do so – a surge in consumer demand – appears unlikely due to the high cost of EVs as well as vehicle charging issues.

The panel said hitting 1 million EVs by 2020 is more realistic, although the federal government could improve EV prospects by creating demonstration programs around the country to familiarize consumers with the technology; boosting financial incentives; spending more money on charging infrastructure, especially in homes; and, in the long-term, investing more in research and development to help bring vehicle costs down.

While the Indiana panel’s take on Obama’s EV goal might reflect consensus expert opinion, the view is not unanimous.

In an emailed statement, Oliver Hazimeh, of the management consulting firm PRTM, said EVs are evolving quickly and becoming attractive “particularly to segments like commercial fleets,” and that consumers in general will be increasingly drawn to the cars for their “coolness factor.”

One million on the road by 2015, he concluded, “is a realistic goal.”

Pete Danko, EarthTechling