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Obama Administration Scaled Back on Electric Vehicle Purchases in 2012

If the federal government’s purchases of plug-in vehicles provides a glimpse into the market viability of electrified vehicles, then the outlook is murky.

In 2011, President Barack Obama’s administration set a goal of purchasing only so-called alternative-technology vehicles for its fleet by 2015, but in 2012, the administration reduced its purchases of hybrid and electric vehicles by one-third, following a trend that’s been ongoing for three years straight. The statistics were reported last week by Detroit Free Press, which obtained numbers under a Freedom of Information request from the U.S. General Services Administration. The newspaper did not mention other vehicle technologies considered to be “alternative,” such as compressed natural gas.

In 2009, the federal government purchased 8,139 hybrid or electric vehicles. That figure dropped to 6,467 in 2010—and fell to a disappointing 2,645 units in 2011, before dipping to 1,801 in 2012. That is a 32 percent decrease in 2012 (compared to 2011), representing only 3.6 percent of the 50,114 vehicles purchased by the federal government last year. Overall, vehicle buying by the federal government dropped by 8.6 percent in 2012.


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