say that not as a criticism, but as a challenge, opportunity, and complement to what it is needed.”
Finding better ways for federal agencies to partner with states to add real value to the economy also is important, Mr. Harris said. “Too often, it seems the feds come in with a good idea,” he said. “But they are not really connected to the state apparatus and state entities. I also do not think we get the return on investment that we need” he said.
Mr. Harris suggested that the National Academy of Sciences invite speakers of state houses of representatives to these forums. “I think you need some legislators to understand what other states are doing,” Mr. Harris said. “The absence of informed representatives hurts the dialogue. Too often we forget about including state legislators in meetings like this, and that hurts their knowledge and information.”
Dr. Good said she liked the idea of inviting state representatives. “It is true that those are the fellows who have to vote ‘yes’ on some of these initiatives, and we need to get them on our side,” she said. The real problem, she acknowledged, is getting them to come. But if they are invited to Washington for such a meeting, the state will pay for it and some might see value in such a trip, she suggested.
Dr. Good asked Les Alexander, general manager for government solutions at A123, for his view from an industry perspective.
The coordination of state, federal, and military efforts has been important to driving development of the advanced battery industry, Mr. Alexander said. “Where I hope we continue to go is to look at demand-driven stimulation rather than stimulating manufacturing and research,” he said. “That is not to say manufacturing and research aren’t important. But we need to continue to pull through the technology into demand and applications to get the vehicles out on the road.”
Measures such as federal fleet purchases, incentives to encourage cities to adopt alternative energy, and grid applications “all are important to continue to strengthen the foundation we have built here,” Mr. Alexander said. “It is important for legislators and researchers to continue to look at the end game, which is to change our economic environment and fossil-fuel use.” While battery companies can keep conducting research in these areas, “it is important to get applications out on the street,” he said.
Dr. Wessner asked Mr. Alexander to cite the main risks facing A123.
One of the biggest is that A123 will not be able to operate its new U.S. plants at full capacity, Mr. Alexander said. Although A123 currently projects that its capacity will be fully utilized, if electric vehicles are not built or purchased “there is a risk this industry will go away,” he said. Successful launches of the Volt and Leaf are important.
Mr. Alexander noted that other nations that do not have the immense infrastructure of the U.S. for motor vehicles are looking at hybrids and electrics as their main source of transportation—just as cell phones are more important