Posts Tagged ‘Electric Cars’
August 22nd, 2012 at 12:20 pm
Federal Energy Policy in Microcosm
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As a resident of the Los Angeles area, I’m accustomed to the petty indignities of big government. In a number of local communities, I can’t get a plastic bag from a grocery store and remain on the right side of the law. In the bedroom community of Calabasas (where I used to live), lighting up a cigarette is illegal virtually everywhere. There was even a small uproar earlier this year when it looked like L.A. was green-lighting $1,000 fines for playing football on the beach (of course that was the one that actually got the public incensed).

Traveling in South Florida last week, I encountered a new one: jam-packed parking lots where the only open spaces (and yes, they were virtually always open) were set aside for electric cars. In an instance of federalism working in exactly the opposite fashion it should — bad state and local ideas trickling up to Washington — it looks like the Capitol is about to get a taste of similar medicine. From National Journal:

Both the House and Senate approved plans to install public charging stations for electric vehicles earlier this month, and President Barack Obama signed those laws late last week. But in conversations with more than a dozen relevant Capitol Hill offices, the Alley could only track down one staffer with an electric car.

The phenomenon — whether in Miami, Capitol Hill, or anywhere else in the nation — is always the same: No one’s buying what the government’s selling. A better parking spot, a charging station, and a guest pass to the HOV lanes aren’t enough to convince the average American consumer to sacrifice quality, reliability, and safety.

This, I think, is the most telling part of the NJ piece:

Though few staffers currently drive electric cars, the sponsors of the legislation hope the stations will act as incentive for staffers considering purchasing one. There are only about 55,000 electric vehicles on the road, according to a CBS projection, which falls well short of Obama’s goals to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Count me skeptical of the incentive argument. The proponents of electric cars think they have a chicken and egg problem on their hands: no one will buy electric cars if there aren’t widespread charging stations, but no one will build the charging stations if there aren’t widespread electric cars. There’s an oft-unacknowledged parallel with the infrastructure, of course: conventional vehicles require gasoline, but you don’t see government having to mandate the creation of your local service station. It turns out that when people actually want a good, the logistics normally sort themselves out.

The problem isn’t that the product creates a chicken and egg dilemma. If we stay with this metaphor, the problem is that the consumer is a vegan. No matter how you present the product, they’re just not interested. When we start realizing this — and applying the principle writ large — we’ll save billions in taxpayer dollars, unravel the green crony capitalism represented by firms like Solyndra, and get our energy economy back on track.

February 27th, 2012 at 10:36 am
Ramirez Cartoon: How Electric Cars Work
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Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

February 1st, 2012 at 5:44 pm
Who Killed the Electric Car? The People Who Made It
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Over at RealClearMarkets, the American Enterprise Institute’s Kenneth Green has a wonderful take-down of California’s delusional alternative energy mandate, which would “require that 15.4 percent of all vehicles sold by 2025 must be electric cars, plug-in hybrid cars, or (currently non-existent) fuel cell cars.” Green notes that this is the second time the Golden State has gone down this road, after a similar mandate — imposed back in 1990 — had to be scrapped due to its total infeasibility.

As you may recall, it used to be fashionable amongst conspiracy-minded greens to posit that the electric car had been undermined by some nefarious cabal of big oil, the auto industry, and hydrogen fuel cell advocates. They even made a film about it: 2006’s “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, which included the contributions of such noted experts in transportation economics as Martin Sheen, Mel Gibson, and Phyllis Diller. As Green points out, however, the electric car and its alternative fuel cousins have never taken the market by storm for a much simpler reason — they’re just not economically viable:

The GM Volt sells for a non-competitive $40,000, and is barely selling despite federal tax subsidies up to $7,500, and some state subsidies that further sweeten the pot. Plug-in hybrid technology is more expensive to manufacture, more expensive to repair, more expensive to insure, and, after 22 years, they still have overheating and fire problems.

As Robert Bryce points out in his book Power Hungry, electric cars are the “Next Big Thing. And they always will be.” Bryce observes that EV-boosters have been flogging electric cars since 1911, when the New York Times declared that “the electric car “has long been recognized as the ideal solution” because it “is cleaner and quieter” and “much more economical.”

Scan the hard data on any alternative energy source being promoted as a panacea and you’ll find much the same thing: Too little performance for too much money and too little convenience. And that’s the real tragedy of mandates like California’s or federal handouts to firms like Solyndra. The reality is that we probably will shift away from our reliance on conventional sources of energy like coal and oil in the future. But in order to do so, alternative energy sources will have to be scalable, affordable, and efficient. Providing subsidies for those technologies before they reach that point only delays their viability by reducing the financial incentive to get a better product to market.

The upshot? Reliable green energy may indeed be on the horizon for California. But if it does arrive, it will be because of the efforts of businessmen, not bureaucrats.