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Electric cars should already be the norm, should have been mass-produced years ago. The Toyota Prius is transitioning to a plug-in hybrid, and perhaps all this battery/recharging research will push Toyota closer to a mass-produced electric vehicle.

Ford is the most disappointing, with no real motivation to make the Escape hybrid into a plug-in variety. Instead, Ford will "study" the Escape plug-in at some spot in the country and get back to us later. The Mercury Mariner hybrid falls in line with its twin, so nothing doing there either. Again, if they go plug-in, the R&D and user feedback starts to build data toward improving tech, features, and the life of batteries, which then leads to more effective electric cars later.

GM's Volt is a Series Hybrid, but the buyers on the list for purchase are leaving in droves, after GM changed the exterior style of the vehicle. That was a dumb move -- give the customers what they wanted, and make a more family friendly version later, but GM instead has gone Vanilla on this one. GM's studies have run their course, but an all-electric vehicle still isn't going toward mass-production.

At this point, the public is tired of studies. We need action, execution of a plan. Planning at some point needs to leave the blueprints and physically get moving. I think there's two reasons that studies will stop, and electric vehicle mass-production will start:
1. Government intervention to force development, in trade for a future bailout for the big automakers (Ford, GM, Chrysler).
2. Non-Big 3 U.S. automakers show not only success with electric vehicle sales, but show measurable theft of market share from the Big 3. No way to know yet if Phoenix Motorcars or some of the others can do this well, but we'll see in time.

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I too would love to see the US automakers take a leading role in electric vehicle technology.

The big problem that I see is the lack of reliability in the economics of electric vehicle technology today. With oil getting (relatively) cheap again and batteries remaining expensive, the economics of PHEVs and electric vehicles are poor. Paying the additional gasoline costs for 100,000 miles of a conventional vehicle is cheaper than the incremental cost of the battery pack for a PHEV (or EV).

How are we going to get consumers to buy vehicles that are money-losers? Sure affluent, hardcore greens would buy today, but the average consumer is already strapped and can ill-afford a big hike in their car payments. Are we going to force the Big 3 to sell them at a loss when they are already on the ropes from their high cost structure?

The first step to getting our auto industry to make long-term investments is to allow our auto industry to be competitive and profitable. Sadly, organized labor is just as susceptible to the greed and short-term thinking that we've seen on Wall Street, and the monopoly power of some labor unions have allowed them to do just as much damage to their industries as Wall Street has done to the U.S. financial system. It is organized labor's "inconvenient truth", and is something that needs to be addressed before we can ever hope to rely on the U.S. auto industry to make long-term investments that take decades to pay off.

The best solution in my mind would be:

- Start regulating labor unions as monopolies so that wages and benefits are reasonable, and so US automakers have the ability to be competitive in the long-term.
- Institute a long-term plan to incrementally increase gasoline taxes, which would establish a price floor that helps to ensure the economic viability of PHEVs and EVs in the future.
- Take the incremental gas tax revenue and distribute it as tax credits for PHEV and EV buyers.
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Take the incremental gas tax revenue and distribute it as tax credits for PHEV and EV buyers.

On second thought, it would probably be useful to find a way for consumers to receive the credit at the time of purchase, so the consumer doesn't have to finance the additional cost of the vehicle and wait to receive the credit in the following year. Reducing the initial capital outlay (or the initial amount financed and corresponding monthly payments) would probably reduce the barrier to purchasing new EV/HEV/PHEVs for a lot more consumers and hasten their adoption.
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