The Spectacle Blog

Electric Cars: Paying More for Less Performance

By on 1.29.11 | 6:31AM

The big-spending Michigan brothers Rep. Sander M. Levin and Sen. Carl. M. Levin want to increase subsidies for uneconomic electric cars.  They would double existing tax incentives, costing a couple billion dollars a year.  Even today that's still a lot of money.

Rep. Levin admitted as much, but opined that if Americans took the tax break "it means that the program worked."  Worked to allow Uncle Sam to reallocate economic activity, anyway.

Unfortunately, as is typical when people spend other people's money to "invest" in their preferred inventions, politicians have come up with a product which no one wants to buy unless paid to do so.  The most obvious short-coming with electric cars, other than their high cost, is their limited range.

Winter exacerbates this problem.  Which means that, unless global warming really accelerates, anyone living anywhere that temperatures drop below the temperate risks getting stuck with a dead battery. 

The latest debilitating snowstorm in Washington, D.C. caused Washington Post columnist Charles Lane to remind readers that cold weather runs down batteries more quickly.  And in a storm like that in Washington, the result could be really ugly.  Lane observed:

Plenty of motorists ran out of fuel in Wednesday night's mega-jam. But my hunch is that electrics would faced similar problems or worse. And many electric-car drivers who did manage to limp home Wednesday would have been out of options the next day: You can't recharge if you don't have electricity, and hundreds of thousands of customers were blacked out Thursday from the snow. The Post reports that this will be the case for many of them for days.  

The answer is to have what one manufacturer calls a "cold weather package."  Like a back-up internal combustion engine.  However, as Lane observes, "Of course, burning gas rather defeats the "green" purpose of the $41,000 (before federal tax rebate) four-seat car. But at least you won't die of exposure on the road."

The House Republicans want to cut the budget.  A good place to start would be wasteful subsidies for uneconomic energy alternatives, such as electric cars.

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