U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has been a vocal critic of several of Democratic President Barack Obama's policies, but he said Wednesday that encouraging the development of electric cars is not one of them.
Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said there is bipartisan agreement on the need to spur the production of affordable electric vehicles.
"I'm glad to support and applaud the president when he does things that I agree with and that I think are good for the country," he said before a speech at a Tennessee Valley Authority forum. "I think he's doing that in many areas of education and he's doing it on electric cars."
Obama has pledged to bring 1 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to U.S. highways by 2015, and turned to the battery industry, still in its infancy, as one of the hallmarks of his economic recovery plan.
Electric vehicles built by General Motors and Nissan are arriving in showrooms later this year and every major auto manufacturer is working on an electric strategy, encouraged by federal funding and tax incentives.
"Electric cars are the way to go," Alexander said. "It's the single best way to reduce our dependence on oil, especially foreign oil. After the Gulf spill, everyone is very aware of this."
Franklin-based Nissan North America Inc. has received $1.4 billion in loans from the federal government to help it build the Leaf, a five-passenger all-electric car that can go 100 miles on a single charge.
Alexander inspected a Leaf and other electric cars on display outside the hotel where the TVA forum was held. The senator said he is in the process of buying a Leaf to drive in Washington, where he currently commutes in a hybrid Toyota Prius.
"The Nissan Leaf will cost about $350 a month, and if you don't drive very far each day, you can just plug it in at home at night," Alexander said.