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In Run-Up to Obama Speech, Questions About Electric Vehicle Potential

President Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks in Michigan this afternoon touting the potential for battery technologies to jump-start the electric vehicle industry.

But The Washington Post has a nice story today that raises questions about the administration’s hopes for batteries.

The problem, however, is that the battery story has yet to occur, and might never. For now, it is just a promise. Skeptics argue that there will be insufficient demand for advanced batteries to sustain the U.S. factories now being built, and that such batteries are already being expertly produced abroad.

“The battery story is highly questionable,” said Menahem Anderman, founder and chief executive of Total Battery Consulting, who estimates that the global capacity to build car batteries in 2014 will be three times greater than the demand that year. “Basically, there’s really no proven market, neither electric vehicle nor plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. And there’s really no battery company in the United States that has a verified product.”

Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks at 1:30 at the groundbreaking of the Compact Power advanced battery manufacturing facility in Holland, Mich. “The plant is the ninth of nine new advanced battery factories to start construction as a result of the $2.4 billion in Recovery Act advanced battery and electric vehicle awards the President announced last August,” according to the White House.

The Department of Energy released a report late last night on Recovery Act investments in electric vehicles and batteries. The report says, “Investments in batteries alone, for example, should help lower the cost of some electric car batteries by nearly 70 percent before the end of 2015. What’s more, thanks in part to these investments, U.S. factories will be able to produce batteries and components to support up to 500,000 electric-drive vehicles annually by 2015. Overall, these investments will create tens of thousands of American jobs.”

Obama’s speech and the report are part of a coordinated effort by the administration to convince the American public that the Recovery Act is creating jobs. On a White House conference call with reporters last night, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) said that Recovery Act investments in electric vehicles and batteries will help create 62,000 jobs in her state.

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