Electric-drive vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt are getting hammered by a lot of critics for a lot of different reasons. What's interesting is that many of the public policy criticisms were also hurled at hybrid-electric vehicles a decade ago, signaling that EVs and plug-ins may follow a similar adoption path as hybrids.

Motley Fool reports that groups such as the libertarian Cato Institute once said subsidizing hybrid production wasn't worthwhile because demand levels would never be high enough for cars like the Toyota Prius to be profitable. The Cato Institute also accused both automakers and the media of overstating the popularity of such advanced-powertrain vehicles, according to the Motley Fool, which added that today's plug-ins are being adopted at a faster rate than hybrids were when they first became available. Plug-ins accounted for about one in every 600 new vehicles sold in the U.S. last year. Demand is not constantly high, though, so, earlier this month, GM said it would shut down Volt production for five weeks in order to thin out inventory.

Honda debuted the first version of its Insight hybrid in the U.S. in 1999, but Toyota, which launched the Prius in the U.S. the following year, has since become the world's largest maker of hybrids. Last April, Toyota said it sold its millionth Prius in the U.S.

Debates over cars like the Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf are heating up since they qualify for big government incentives at a time when the federal government looks to cut its budget deficit. The DOE has also supported advanced technology vehicles with loan guarantees, a project that will reportedly cost taxpayers much less than previously expected.