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Presidential Candidates and PHEVs: Side-by-Side Matchup
Sep 4, 2008 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Since June we've been doing our best to stimulate a race between the candidates on PHEV policies -- through contacts with the campaign staffs of both candidates and by encouraging media to ask the candidates about this topic. We've chronicled the very positive progression at postings at CalCars-News -- see­news-archive.html and links below. We've upgraded and updated our page at­phev-presidents.html. We created this page:

  • to help voters understand the positions of the candidates;
  • to communicate our views to the candidates' policy advisors; and most of all
  • to amplify the message to carmakers that they will get support if they leap ahead to electrify vehicles.

Below is most of what we say there (less the photos, logos and embedded links). We encourage you to forward this message, and link to the full page URL when you post comments on blogs.


[caption:] Senator Barack Obama talks to's Larry Brilliant about their PHEV program, at the Googleplex, Mountain View, CA, November 2007.

[caption:] Senator John McCain views Chevy Volt prototype with GM's Bob Lutz, Beth Lowery and Rick Wagoner at GM design center, Warren, MI, July 19 2008.

On January 20, 2009, whether Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain is elected President, plug-in hybrids will have an advocate in the White House -- and a staff that understands their benefits for economics, energy security and the environment. We expect either candidate will make a priority to accelerate PHEVs' "commercialization." (That fancy business word means mass production and retail sales in large volumes.)

Federal policies will support them and their customers. Remember the federal hybrid tax credit? It was enacted to help individuals with the higher initial costs of cars that provide a broad benefit to society. Recall that 40MPG hybrids got a $3,400 federal tax credit. For vehicles that improve MPG by an additional factor of two or more, it's reasonable to expect even greater incentives.

WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND: Both candidates have seen PHEVs and gotten direct explanations. Both have endorsed PHEVs in their speeches. And increasingly, they've been watching each others' statements and responding -- all of which adds up to a competition between them on who has the best policies on PHEVs. And, including EVs, that applies to plug-in cars in general.

Here's a quick run-down followed by details and background, links to reports on their recent statements. And finally a yardstick by which to judge the proposals: the plan proposed in "Freedom from Oil."

Barack Obama's Clean Energy Fund Supports:

  • $7,000 consumer tax credit for purchase of new plug-in cars
  • Some level of tax credits for conversions of cars
  • $4 billion in loans and tax credits to carmakers for factory retooling
  • White House fleet all-plug-in within a year (as security permits)
  • 50% of cars purchased for the federal fleet will be plug-in by 2012
  • 1 million plug-in cars on our roads by 2015
  • Raise fleet fuel economy 4%/year

John McCain's Clean Car Challenge Includes:

  • $5,000 consumer tax credit for purchase of new zero-carbon vehicles; near-zero PHEVs would get a percentage of that level
  • $300 million prize for advanced battery technology that delivers a 70 percent improvement in batteries to get to 30 per cent of their current cost
  • Specific support for the Chevy Volt: "the future of America and the world."

Comparing the Candidates: for a roundup on other issues (including minor party candidates) see the general Wikpedia entry: Comparison of US presidential candidates, 2008­wiki/­Comparison_of_United_States_presidential_candidates,_2008, and for a matchup on climate change and energy see Grist Election '08: Compare the Candidates­candidate_chart_08.html and many postings at Climate Progress­ .

For the Ongoing Race on PHEV Policies by the Candidates, see CalCars-News postings:

WHY IT'S THE END OF BUSINESS AS USUAL: When we speak at events, we tell the story of what happened after December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor). President Roosevelt summoned the carmakers to the White House and said, "We're not going to build any more cars and trucks in the U.S. We're going to build planes and tanks." FDR challenged the automakers to build 30,000 planes in one year. They said the goal was impossible. Then they built 120,000.

Today, we believe we're in a similar moment. The challenges are the energy security and climate change consequences of our dependence on fossil fuels, and the opportunity to revive and expand one of our key industries through a transition to electrification.

For carmakers, the end of business as usual means enormous new opportunities and challenges. Their business models are predicated on slow evolution of vehicles, not on disruptive technologies. And their pricing models don't take into account the likelihood that their two main impediments to moving faster -- higher up-front purchase costs and uncertainties involving battery performance and lifetime -- could be addressed by subsidies and by other federal support policies.

[Followed by additional background including information on the Democratic and Republican Platforms say about plug-in cars, the proposals of the Senate "Gang of 10," and how all this compares to the roadmap proposed in "Freedom From Oil," by David Sandalow of the Brookings Institution. See full text and graphics at­phev-presidents.html.]

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