Electric-car sales are on fire. Okay, well, only a few electric cars have actually gone up in smoke. But with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opening a formal safety investigation into fears about fires started by the much-hyped Chevrolet Volt, it’s become clear yet again that electric vehicles are The Next Big Thing — and they always will be.
Safety questions are the last thing that the electric-vehicle market needs. Indeed, the U.S. already has a huge excess of electric-vehicle (EV) battery-production capacity. This month, A123 Systems, one of the country’s highest-profile battery makers for the EV market, cut 35 percent of its workers at two Michigan plants. A123 was one of several dozen companies that got subsidies from the Obama administration, which has handed out $2.4 billion in grants to the EV sector, as well as nearly $2.6 billion in loans. (More on that in a minute.) Further, despite Obama’s hopes, made clear during his State of the Union speech earlier this year — that the U.S. would be “the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road” — sales of cars like the Volt, a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf, have been tepid at best.
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