Ernest Moniz, the American energy secretary, has admitted that the US will not see one million electric vehicles on its roads until 2020 at the earliest.
His comments came during an interview held at the Washington auto show, where he said that the low price of gasoline in the last 18 months has prevented many buyers from adopting the new technology.
In August 2008, with gas prices averaging nearly $4 a gallon, then presidential candidate Barack Obama set a goal of getting one million plug-in electric vehicles on the roads by 2015. He subsequently reiterated this goal in his 2011 State of the Union.
Moniz said the country may hit the figure in three to four years with continuing improvements in battery technology.
"If we get a little acceleration, obviously we're probably three, four years away," he said. "I remain very bullish."
As it stands, only about 400,000 electric cars have been sold to American consumers, a small proportion of the estimated 250 million cars and trucks that travel on its roads.
Last year, sales actually declined by six per cent over the previous year, to about 115,000, despite the industry offering about 30 plug-in models, often at deep discounts.
Barack Obama has been a major backer of electric vehicles while in office, during his visit to the auto show he reportedly said: "plug-in hybrids and electrics and fuel-efficient cars can protect our planet, save people money at the pump."
Moniz believes that lowering the cost of battery technology is ‘critical’ to achieving mass adoption and noted the administration's goal is to make them as affordable to own and operate as gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.
Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles typically cost $8,000 to $10,000 more than equivalent sized gasoline powered cars with similar options.
Yesterday, the carmaker Nissan announced it would invest £26.5m in an advanced electric vehicle battery production facility in Sunderland, UK.