Lithium-ion battery pack

Thomas Edison famously said that genius was one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. To get to the heart of what's holding back broader adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), though, it's even better to paraphrase one-time Bill Clinton advisor James Carville: "It's the battery, stupid."

That's the gist of a report (PDF) from the Washington-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the way it handicaps various advanced-powertrain vehicle types and what their chances are of making a dent in the light-duty vehicle market. Specifically, the 28-page report notes that neither high gas taxes in Europe nor vehicle subsidies that cut the out-of-pocket EV prices in North America have spurred EV demand in either continent.

Instead, ITIF says, the government's efforts should be put squarely into the research and development required to create an EV battery pack that will cost less than $250 per kilowatt hour and have a 300-mile single-charge range. That means that any money used for tax credits and other consumer incentives should be shifted to R&D funding. In other words, a seismic change from how EVs are promoted today.

Last year, 10,064 EVs were sold in the US, or about one in 125 new domestic vehicles. In 2012, the Nissan Leaf, last year's best selling EV, has seen its year-to-date sales fall 28 percent from a year earlier to 5,212 units.