NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration's goal of putting 1 million hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015 is "reasonable" if the government builds hydrogen fueling and electric-charging stations nationwide, a Nissan Motor Co. executive said.
"Carmakers can't go and put hydrogen fueling and charging stations throughout the U.S., but the government can," Andy Palmer, a senior vice president at Nissan said in an interview at a conference in New York Wednesday.
There are 722 electric car charging stations in the U.S., with 60 percent of those in California, according to the Energy Department. There are 58 hydrogen fueling stations in the nation, again with the most in California than any other state. U.S. sales of hybrid and electric vehicles could reach 1.6 million by the end of the decade, or 9 percent of all cars, Albert Cheung, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst said in a presentation at the conference.
By 2030, sales could reach 4 million vehicles, he said. Models available today include Nissan's all-electric Leaf, and General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Volt, which uses a gasoline engine to charge a battery. Ford Motor Co. makes the Transit Connect, an electric delivery van. U.S. government purchases accounted for about a fourth of the Ford and GM hybrid vehicles sold since President Barack Obama took office, according to government data.
The U.S. General Services Administration, which runs the government fleet, bought at least 14,584 hybrid vehicles in the past two fiscal years, or about 10 percent of 145,473 vehicles the agency purchased in that period, according to sales data obtained by Bloomberg under a Freedom of Information Act request.
That's up from fiscal 2008 when hybrids accounted for less than 1 percent of government purchases, the data showed.
"Government fleets create momentum, but they're not the be all and end all," Palmer said. "The more vehicles you get out into customer hands, the more people start to understand that an electric car is not the same as a golf cart."
This is especially important as Japan's Nissan, GM and other carmakers developing hybrid and electric vehicles are looking for ways to further develop technologies. Longer-lasting batteries would increase product reliability and help make prices more attractive to consumers, he said. Hybrid and electric vehicle models purchased by the government ranged from $23,072 to $47,079.
The government paid an average of $5,281 less for its hybrid vehicles than sticker prices, according to a comparison of the GSA purchase data with prices collected by Edmunds.com, a consumer information Web site.