Even though we're in the early phase of modern electric cars and sales haven't been as high as some expected, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu continues to promote electric vehicles as a way for the American economy to cut its dependence on increasingly expensive foreign oil, MarketWatch reports. Chu made the remarks at the New York Times Energy for Tomorrow Conference last week.

To make the point that people who doubt EV technology might not be on target, Chu cited a century-old Scientific American article saying that no further technology could be developed to improve the U.S. automobile. Chu's statements did not align with those of energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, who also spoke at the conference and is still saying that natural gas is a better solution to cutting oil use than vehicle powertrain electrification. Writing in Forbes recently, Bob Lutz and three co-authors said that both technologies are needed: electric for passenger cars, natural gas for heavy-duty trucks.

In remarks to the Detroit Economic Club earlier this year, Chu estimated that battery costs for plug-in vehicles will fall as much as 70 percent from 2008 levels by 2015. In 2010, Chu said at the United Nations Climate Change Conference that battery-electric cars could be priced similar to gas-powered vehicles within five years because of a combination of technological advancements and more electric-vehicle adoption.

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