Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is continuing the Obama administration’s programs aimed at helping automakers develop more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Moniz announced the latest $50 million round of grants last week at the Washington Auto Show, building on the department’s existing “EV Everywhere Grand Challenge.” It’s a program that aims to make electric vehicles that are more affordable and convenient than gas-powered counterparts within a decade.
Reducing the cost of electric vehicles is a major hurdle in increasing their market share. Even with the advantage of running more than 40 miles on a single charge before a gasoline engine kicks in, GM’s Chevrolet Volt — a plug-in hybrid —only ranks sixth on the cheapest cars to fuel and maintain. Compact and subcompact vehicles that use traditional internal combustion engines remain less expensive to operate.
The grants announced by Moniz will give manufacturers additional funds for research and development of critical components, including batteries, lubricants and more advanced climate control systems.
Plug-in electric car sales doubled in 2013 to almost 100,000 compared with the previous year, but they still represent a small niche. Just 0.64 percent of the 15.6 million vehicles sold in the United States last year were plug-in electrics. Gaining market share will be critical in driving down the cost of electric vehicles, but it is difficult to make inroads while prices remain high.