Electric Car Sales Don't Hit Initial Goal

ASHEVILLE - Electric car sales haven't been what the government hoped for.

The Obama Administration wanted a million of them on the road by tomorrow and has spent billions in taxpayer funds to promote the technology.

Falling gas prices, limited range and the higher cost of electric cars have all made the president's goal hard to reach.

"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," President Obama said during the 2011 State of the Union.

A big promise and one the White House backed away from not long after.

"I think they hoped that the very, very large incentives would kind of start a movement but it didn't happen," said Gregory Sullivan, an expert with the Pioneer Institute.

With one full day left in 2015, Americans are nowhere near having one million electric vehicles on the road.

Federal spending

The government is spending $7.5 billion in stimulus funds over 10 years on electric vehicles.

Some of that is used to encourage people to buy electric cars like the Nissan Leaf.

"It's just a great all around car," said Zach Hurst, at Fred Anderson Nissan in Asheville. "Honestly with the Leaf you're doing several things well. You are saving money you are saving the environment and you get a good car. It has all the bells and whistles."

The leaf starts at $32,000.

But you can get about $10,000 in tax credits.

And if you're patient you can get an even better deal on a used one.

"I have a killer Nissan Leaf," said Lindsay Morris of Asheville, "that I got for $10,000 about four months ago."

He powers it with solar panels.

But the best part is the joy he gets from driving it.

"The funny thing about it is it is so powerful," he said. "I am going to get a ticket driving this car."

He's not kidding.

"It's very sports-car feeling," he said. "It's hilarious."

Tax credits still in place

The tax credits will phase out after an automaker sells 200,000 electric cars.

So far no company has hit that mark.

All of them combined only sold one hundred and two thousand this year, according to industry tracker Inside-EVs.

And some, like automaker Fisker, even went out of business after getting a half billion government loan.

Charging stations are popping up everywhere.

Technology has political support

Electric car owners in North Carolina pay a special $100 annual fee to recoup what they would have paid in gas taxes.

But the technology has support in Raleigh.

"I think most people would assume well all the Democrats are for the hybrids and the electric cars I suspect a huge number of my Republican colleagues are using that technology," said state Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Hendersonville.

He drives a Toyota Prius hybrid.

Owners aren't concerned the sales didn't hit the million car mark.

"Well I think it's a great goal," he said. "It's beautiful, the efficiency of an electric car."

He says more people need to try them.

"The rapidity of the adoption of the electric car just depends on publicity and people finding out how great they are and how powerful they are. I think in America you sell stuff more by how cool it is rather than how much sense it makes. And this thing is amazingly cool," he said.

While the tax credits are still in place industry groups that follow electric vehicle sales expect those credits will be altered in the next 18 months.

Whether they will be strengthened or canceled remains to be seen.