President Obama Outlines $4.7 Billion Plan to Boost Clean Energy Transportation

Published March 8, 2012

 By Jeff Cobb

Following his recent State of the Union outline [1] to boost domestically produced clean energy and related transportation, this week President Obama announced $4.7 billion in proposed plans to enable an “all of the above [2]” approach.

Speaking at a Daimler truck plant in North Carolina, the president said his administration wants to give compressed natural gas vehicles a tax credit similar to that which plug-in vehicles are eligible. In all, the proposal would commit $3.7 billion toward clean energy tax credits.

Obama also announced a new $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge to spur deployment of clean, advanced vehicles in communities around the country, and an “EV Everywhere” plan to make electric vehicles as affordable and convenient as any ordinary car within a decade.

As part of his ambitious plan to get there, Obama reiterated the sentiment spoken by his administration officials since last year to make the plug-in tax credit a transferable point of sale rebate, instead of making consumers wait until filing their taxes.

As outlined in a White House press announcement, the President proposes to improve the current tax credit for electric vehicles by:

o Expanding eligibility for the credit to a broader range of advanced vehicle technologies;

o Increasing the amount from $7,500, making it scalable up to $10,000;

o Reforming the credit to make it available at the point-of-sale by making it transferable to the dealer or financier, allowing consumers to benefit when they purchase a vehicle rather than when they file their taxes; and

o Removing the cap on the number of vehicles per manufacturer eligible for the credit and, instead, ramping down and eventually eliminating the credit at the end of the decade.

Calling it a “Race to the Top,” the $1 billion National Community Deployment Challenge wants to catalyze up to 10 to 15 model communities to invest in infrastructure, remove regulatory barriers, and create the local incentives for advanced-tech vehicle deployment to the point of “critical mass.”

“This proposal embraces a strategy similar to that outlined by Senators Merkley and Alexander in their Promoting Electric Vehicles legislation,” the White House said. It differs from it however in that it is “fuel neutral” so if communities favor EVs or CNG or some other technology, the government would like to help level the playing field.

“Deployment Communities would serve as real-world laboratories, leveraging limited federal resources to develop different models to deploy advanced vehicles at scale,” the White House said. “The program would also support the development of up to 5 regional Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) corridors where alternative fuel trucks can transport goods without using a drop of oil.”

 Obama’s speech at the Daimler truck plant was in keeping with announcements to promote clean energy trucking.

Beyond this, he launched “EV Everywhere” that aims within one decade to make electric vehicles as affordable and convenient as gasoline-powered vehicles are today.

“This national effort is the second in a series of Clean Energy Grand Challenges designed by the Department of Energy to bring together America’s best and brightest scientists, engineers, andbusinesses to work together to solve the most pressing energy technology challenges of our time,” the White House said. “EV Everywhere will enable companies in the U.S. to produce electric vehicles at lower cost, with an improved vehicle range and an increased fast-charging ability.”

Obama’s plan says savings will be around $100 per average driver per month once the mission is accomplished. This factors in up-front savings on subsidized EVs, and will need a major boost also from the president’s 2013 budget.

Adding to the multi-billion, multi-tier plan to get away from predominant reliance on petroleum, the 2013 budget proposes $650 million to advance vehicle and battery technologies at the Energy Department, including investments to support EV Everywhere.

The White House said EV Everywhere will pave the way for “breakthrough R&D for advanced batteries, electric drivetrain technologies, lightweight vehicle structures, and fast charging technology.”