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If US states want to really put 3.3 million electric cars on the road, they should listen to Elon Musk

California, New York and six other US states announced yesterday they would collaborate to put 3.3 million electric cars on the road by 2025, by promoting the installation of charging stations and encouraging ownership of zero-emission vehicles. (Separately, the federal government has set a target of 1 million electric cars by 2015.)

The eight states have been in the vanguard for clean-running cars and collectively represent 23% of the US auto market. According to a memorandum of understanding, they will also set targets for purchases of zero-emission vehicles for government fleets, consider offering electric-car buyers financial incentives, and standardize and streamline the process of granting permits for charging stations.

That’s all well and good. But the main reason for the initiative is also the fundamental obstacle holding back sales of most electric cars: their limited range. With models like the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf able to go only 75 miles on a charge, the lack of charging stations has kept even green-minded buyers out of the showrooms.

The average American commute is 37 miles roundtrip (pdf, p. 12), though the number of so-called mega-commuters who travel more than 50 miles a day is growing, according to the US Census Bureau. (The traffic-clogged commute between San Francisco and Silicon Valley is about 100 miles roundtrip, for instance.)


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