Delphi CEO — Lack of Federal Energy Policy Harming EV Developers

The federal government’s failure to make electric vehicles a top priority is making it harder for automakers according to Delphi Automotive CEO Rodney O’Neal.

Addressing a crowd at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) 2011 World Congress in Detroit on Friday, O’Neal said at least three issues remain unresolved: the cost of electric vehicles, their limited operational range and the lack of a reliable electrical power grid to support their use.

O’Neal blamed federal regulators and politicians for sending mixed messages about the goals of electric vehicle makers.

He said consumers are still unsure about the ultimate goals of the EV industry and the federal government, and that uncertainty is hindering their adoption of electric vehicles.

If, for instance, the goal of the industry is to achieve energy independence, then why not create electric vehicles that would get their power from coal-powered electricity plants?

On the other hand, if clean air is the top priority, nuclear, solar, wind or some other non-coal power would seem to be the logical choice.

O’Neal cited the European Union’s clear priority to develop cleaner alternative fuels and China’s goal of achieving energy independence as models for the U.S. to follow in setting its own energy policy.

According to O’Neal, the U.S. has straddled the issue. “Policymakers,” he said, “have created a muddled mission, with alternative powertrains and traditional internal combustion engines in competition with one another.”

Despite the “muddled” vision of how to achieve the goal, the Obama administration has said that it intends to require all federal agencies to purchase only hybrid, all-electric or other alternative-fuel vehicles beginning in 2015. The administration plans to include trucks as well as passenger cars in its mandate. Additionally, President Obama has repeatedly said that his goal is to have 1 million all-electric and hybrid vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015.

The administration has also said that it wants to reduce the amount of oil imported from overseas producers by one-third by 2025.

In the meantime, the lack of a coherent, national energy policy has led some industry analysts to predict the demise of any number of domestic EV battery, vehicle and equipment producers and suppliers due to lack of sales in the electric vehicle sector.

O’Neal told the gathering, “As long as we have these unresolved challenges, we will have to place incremental bets on all technologies. There are lots of ideas and opportunities, but we won’t be able to afford to chase them all.”

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