Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Thursday the Obama administration was committed to electric vehicles.
Chu is vowing to dramatically reduce the price of battery technology to reduce the cost of EVs.
"For the engineers in the room or those who follow this, you might be saying to yourself, 'What are they smoking'" Chu said about aggressive plans to cut the price of batteries. "We're not smoking anything…. They are ambitious goals but they are achievable goals."
In July 2010 at a groundbreaking ceremony for a battery plant being built by a U.S. unit of South Korea's LG Chem funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, Obama said he expected the cost of EV batteries to drop by as much as 70 percent by 2015.
Chu declined to say if the Energy Department would make any new loans from its $25 billion advanced technology vehicle manufacturing program, which hasn't made a new loan in nearly two years.
"That remains to be seen. In the future, we're always looking for great ideas that come forward," Chu said. "We want to fund things that actually propel the United States forward."
The department has awarded less than $9 billion of the $25 billion that was approved by Congress in 2008. Despite applications from more than 100 companies, just five loans were awarded — $5.9 billion to Ford Motor Co., $1.4 billion to Nissan Motor Co., and about $500 million each to auto start-ups Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive Inc.
Many smaller companies collapsed as they waited years for a decision. General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC both abandoned their applications after years of talks with the Energy Department.
The government froze the remainder of Fisker's loan amid troubles at the firm.
"That program is an important program and if we can use it to actually have sustainable businesses that succeed… we'll look at all applications."
"We're so focused on improving the technology," Chu said. "The rate of progress in batteries is just taking off."
Chu unveiled a major initiative to boost electric vehicle infrastructure.
Mild hybrids "will almost become the defacto" automobile, Chu said and within five or 10 years "stop-start" technology will become widespread.
Chu announced that 13 major U.S. employers and eight groups have joined Workplace Charging Challenge to help expand access to workplace charging electric vehicle stations for American workers across the country.
The companies include 3M, Chrysler, Duke Energy, Eli Lilly and Company, Ford, GE, GM, Google, Nissan, San Diego Gas & Electric, Siemens, Tesla, and Verizon.
The pledge commits each partner organization to assess workforce charging demands, and then develop and implement a plan to install workplace charging infrastructure for at least one major worksite location.