A group of businessmen on Monday launched a new coalition to urge the federal government to make a major investment in electric transportation, pointing to electric cars as the best way to confront the nation's dependence on imported oil.
Top executives with more than a dozen companies, including Nissan Motor Co., Fedex Corp., electric utility PG&E Corp. and battery developers A123 Systems Inc. and Johnson Controls-Saft, announced the formation of the Electrification Coalition to lay the groundwork for millions of electric cars to reach U.S. highways.
Issuing a lengthy plan to electrify the nation's fleet, the coalition urged Congress to pass a series of tax credits and loan guarantees to bring 14 million electric cars to the road by 2020 and more than 100 million by 2030. The group envisions a network of electric vehicles in six to eight cities in the short term and an expansion across the country, making 75 percent of all vehicle miles traveled powered by electricity by 2040.
"There's no pie-in-the-sky here," said Frederick W. Smith, FedEx's chairman, president and CEO. "It's simply a matter of organization, a matter of will and a matter of execution."
Participants, however, acknowledged that the proposals would be expensive and would require a major commitment from Congress. The group's blueprint would cost more than $120 billion over eight years and promote tax credits for the installation of advanced batteries, loan guarantees for the retooling of plants, and tax credits for public charging stations and home charging equipment.
"Ultimately the consumer will make the judgment about where this country goes, but from the standpoint of public policy we can set the stage for it," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who joined the group for its announcement.
Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn said the auto industry was working quickly to develop zero-emissions cars in response to concerns about oil security, tighter emissions requirements in the United States and elsewhere and a public thirst for alternative vehicles not tied to petroleum.
Ghosn said the world market of 600 million vehicles is expected to expand to 2.5 billion vehicles in 2050 with the growth in vehicle purchasing in developing nations such as China and India, making electric cars a must. Nissan is releasing the Leaf, an all-electric car, in limited numbers next year and plans to put the vehicle into mass-production globally in 2012.
"The time is right for electric cars — in fact the time is critical," Ghosn said.