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The transition to a green economy hasn’t gone as smoothly as the president would have liked. The Obama administration has faced criticism for the struggles of some clean-energy companies, among them Solyndra, Fisker Automotive, Tesla Motors and now, A123.

“You see the electric cars are dying in the market,” Mr. McAlinden said. “Nobody wants to buy them. They cost too much. There’s nowhere to recharge them. The general population isn’t interested in electric cars at all.”

Other analysts say critics tend to harp on the failures, but ignore the successes. “There’s always a very strong focus on the businesses that fail, the ones that sort of blow up,” said Nate Hultman, director of environmental- and energy-policy programs at the University of Maryland and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Electric-car experts agree it will take more time for these vehicles to become a realistic option for most drivers. “I’m fairly confident that once people have the taste of what it is like to drive a reasonably priced electric car, many people will prefer that,” Mr. Hultman said.

Phil Gott, IHS automotive analyst, pointed out that every new industry goes through growing pains. There have been more than 3,000 automobile manufacturers since the late 1800s, he pointed out, but only three have survived in Detroit. The electric-vehicle industry is going through the same process.

“It’s the natural evolution,” he said.