BY JUSTIN HYDE
FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will use his trip to the site of a Michigan battery plant Thursday as a centerpiece of a larger campaign promoting the administration’s efforts in jump-starting U.S. electric vehicle production.
In addition to the appearance at the groundbreaking for the Holland factory set to open in 2012, several cabinet members and administration officials will visit other plants around the country this week, including a General Motors factory in Baltimore, according to White House officials.
And the U.S. Department of Energy will release a report later this week saying the push for U.S. production of electric and hybrid-vehicle batteries could dramatically lower their costs, with four plants expected to be running by the end of the year.
Talking about electric car batteries gives the Obama White House a two-for-one political benefit in an election year. With growing worries about a lackluster economy that has yet to generate enough demand to dent unemployment, Obama can tout high-tech jobs created by government stimulus. And he can also highlight electric vehicles as clean energy steps towards reducing U.S. oil demand in the wake of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama has shunted more than $2 billion in grant money to advanced battery manufacturing to create a base for high-tech battery making in the United States. And he has called on the auto industry to sell one million plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles by 2015.
The Energy report will say that thanks to the stimulus spending, the cost of a battery pack for a vehicle with a 100-mile range could fall by half to $16,000 by 2013, declining to $10,000 by 2015. The act should also spur the installation of 20,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2012.