John Mendel at 2009 debut of the new Honda Insight
John Mendel, Honda’s executive vice president, yesterday called for policy makers to refrain from promoting “the virtues of one technology and demonizing another.” Speaking at the Moving Ahead 2010 conference at Ohio State University, Mendel suggested that government agencies are “laying all their chips on the technology du jour.” Without explicitly pointing fingers at EVs, Mendel made it abundantly clear that he believes support for electric cars and next-generation batteries represent “a rush to select a winner that could lead us in the wrong direction.”
The Department of Energy has invested $1.4 billion in plug-in cars and battery research and development grants, $25 billion in low-interest loans, and has created a federal tax credit up to $7,500 for battery-powered vehicles. Meanwhile, consumer incentives for conventional hybrids have not been renewed, and investment in hydrogen fuel cell technology has been slashed.
“To put the country on the course to a single technology without fully understanding its implications, including whether customers will buy it, will put us behind in achieving our objectives,” Mendel said. The Honda executive believes that government’s role should be to set goals for achieving improvements in air quality, climate change and energy sustainability, and to “leave it to industry to figure out how to get there.”
Slow Adoption of New Technologies
Mendel pointed to the slow rate of adoption of conventional hybrids, which represent less than 3 percent of new car sales, 10 years after Honda introduced the original Honda Insight in December 1999. “If we can’t convince people to move a hybrid, which is fully functioning and is as easy to refuel as an internal combustion engine vehicle,” Mendel questioned, “then we have to serious consider what we will get them to accept in terms of battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles with their myriad of limitations, such as cost, driving range and refueling or recharging options.”