Obama Administration Scaling Back Electric Car Goals

May 22, 2015 11:00 AM EDT | John Nassivera

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President Barack Obama has adjusted his goal of having 1 million plug-in vehicles on the road by this year's end, much to the disappointment of many electric vehicle enthusiasts.

The change of heart comes  six years after Obama signed an executive order mandating electric cars with the intent of the government buying 1 million EVs by 2015, according to Bloomberg. However, the president scaled back this objective in March, due to sales and government purchases not meeting expectations.

The decline in consumer interest in electric vehicles, which lack the infrastructure that gasoline-powered vehicles have, played a significant role. U.S. consumers bought about 290,000 electric and hybrid cars from 2009 to 2014, which only account for 3 percent of overall sales.

"The zealots, the hypesters, the enthusiasts created an environment that wasn't ever going to be a reality," said Brett Smith, a program director for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "This got going in the summer of 2008 when gasoline was $5 a gallon in California. The world expected gasoline prices to go up and up and up and technology to solve it. Two of those things didn't happen."

A Freedom of Information Act request obtained by Bloomberg points out that, out of the 350,000 cars that the government has purchased since Obama took office, only 7 percent of them were "fuel-efficient," The Hill reported. (It's unclear which makes and models are included in this grouping.)

Bill Toth, director of motor vehicle management for the GSA, said the government will keep building its fleet of electric and hybrid cars. He added, however, that several obstacles stand in its way, such as trucks being the most-purchased government vehicles.

"They also come with a higher acquisition cost compared to conventional vehicles," Toth said, Bloomberg reported.

Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said upgrades to gasoline engines and increased use of hybrid technology will account for most improvements in fuel over the next 10-15 years. He added that drivers will be more accepting of electric car technology after these improvements are made.

"The ground is being laid for an electric car future," Becker said. "But it's not an electric car present.

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