Nissan Leaf at 2013 Washington Auto Show

The U.S. Department of Energy outlined ambitious goals to increase the use of electric vehicles and reduce battery costs for consumers at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show. Dr. David Danielson, the assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, said Thursday at a press conference at the auto show that electric vehicles are “an essential part” of the Obama administration’s all-encompassing approach to reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Danielson also spoke about the government’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge. The goal of this challenge is to make the United States the first country in the world to produce plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) that are as affordable as today’s gasoline-powered cars, and to do so within 10 years. For instance, the 2013 Nissan Leaf electric vehicle currently starts at $28,800, but would cost closer to the price of a gas-powered $15,990 Nissan Sentra or $21,760 Nissan Altima.

[Photos: 2013 Washington Auto Show

In order to make PEVs more affordable, Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu said at the press conference yesterday that the cost of electric car batteries would have to be reduced. Dr. Chu also said he envisions batteries becoming more efficient. Due to the state of the technology currently available, most electric vehicles only use a small percentage of their battery’s actual storage capacity. The aim is for a significant increase in the usability and energy density of PEV batteries in order to increase battery range and also make the batteries more compact in size.

Dr. Chu also announced yesterday at the press conference a sub-program of EV Everywhere called the Workplace Charging Challenge. The aim of this program is for more employers to offer PEV charging stations at the workplace. Dr. Chu said that increasing the number of workplace charging stations would allow PEVs to be considered by more people for daily transportation.

The government also outlined goals for overall vehicle weight loss by 2022. These goals include a reduction in vehicle body weight by 35 percent, interior component weight by 5 percent and chassis and suspension weight by 25 percent. Many automakers are already using new technology and materials to bring down vehicle weight. Doing so aids fuel economy, and helps automakers meet the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

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