The U.S. Department of Energy has eased off Barack Obama's stated goal of putting one million electric cars on the road by 2015.
The President announced the goal in his 2011 State of the Union speech but many auto analysts and executives doubted whether American consumers would buy a million electric vehicles by 2015.
Now the department has and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost over the next nine years.
"Whether we meet that goal in 2015 or 2016, that's less important than that we're on the right path to get many millions of these vehicles on the road," an Energy Department official said, in advance of remarks by Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a speech at the Washington D.C. auto show yesterday.
The proposal to lower electric vehicle costs represents the first look at how U.S. auto policy may take shape during Obama's next four years after his first term saw a flurry of initiatives related to the auto industry, beginning with government rescues of General Motors Co and Chrysler Group LLC.
Speaking about the 1 one million car goal after his speech Mr Chu said: "It's ambitious, but we'll see what happens."
Promoting plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles has been a long-running focus for the White House, which has also pushed for more stringent standards on fuel economy, but demand for hybrids and electric vehicles has been weaker than expected.
Last year, nearly 488,000 hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars were sold in the United States, accounting for just 3.3 percent of the overall auto market, according to green-car website Hybridcars.com.
For the administration to meet its 2015 goal, electrified vehicles would have double their market share to roughly 6 percent of the U.S. auto market, which automotive consulting firm Polk estimates will reach 16.2 million vehicles that year.
Under the new strategy outlined on Thursday, the DOE is supporting research into new battery technologies and manufacturing methods that would lower the cost of lightweight materials and improve vehicles' fuel-efficiency.
Chu stressed that it was important to set high goals for electric car technology, because advanced vehicles will eventually be competing with internal combustion vehicles that get 45 miles per gallon fuel economy.
The DOE also confirmed its goal to lower the cost of lithium-ion batteries to $300 per kilowatt hour by 2015 from the present $650. The department eventually hopes to get the cost down $125 per kilowatt hour.
Ultimately, the department's goal is to have about 500 companies offer workplace charging over the next five years. Several companies are already on board, including Google Inc , Verizon and General Electric Co.