Subsidies for the electric-car industry: Cars are running on empty promises

2013-10-14T00:00:00Z Subsidies for the electric-car industry: Cars are running on empty promisesDavid A. Ridenour Arizona Daily Star
October 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If government could mandate innovation, we could fill up our cars with garden hoses.

But even Washington can’t turn water into automotive fuel, and that’s why federal subsidies premised upon technological breakthroughs — such as those for electric cars — are a waste of money.

What we drive says a lot about us. What an electric car says about its owners is that they don’t have children or have no reasonable hope of ever having any.

Electric cars simply don’t provide families with the right combination of price, size and range for their needs.

Children are very expensive, with the average cost of raising a child the first 18 years now over $240,000. Add college tuition to that and the cost of each child can easily exceed $340,000.

At the same time, the higher one’s income — and the more likely one can afford higher-cost electric cars — the less likely one is to have children. The bottom fifth of wage-earners are nearly 50 percent more likely to have children than top fifth.

Electric cars don’t deliver the value families need. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the lifetime cost of an electric hybrid car is $12,000 more than a conventional vehicle, so subsidies have to be at least 60 percent higher than the current maximum federal subsidy of $7,500 to overcome the cost disparity.

But no amount of federal action can resolve other problems.

These cars are too small, as space is sacrificed for technological needs and to minimize vehicle weight to extend the range.

The typical all-electric car has a range of under 100 miles between charges.

Charges can take hours and leave one vulnerable to the increasingly unreliable power grid.

Electric-gas hybrid cars are a better alternative, but are more expensive and less spacious.

Range is a huge issue for families. Automotive evaluation firm J.D. Power and Associates notes that electric cars are best for “drivers with predictable, unwavering daily driving requirements.”

Kids’ schedules are many things, but reliable isn’t one of them. As anyone who has children can attest, kids have unscheduled band, choir, soccer, football and dance practices. 

The $7.5 billion we’ll spend over 10 years promoting electric cars will accomplish only one thing: Propping up a niche product.

J.D. Power says electric-car owners “most often cite environmental friendliness as the most important benefit” of such cars. But even here, electrics fail.

A Journal of Industrial Ecology report found that manufacturing electric vehicles produces over double the carbon dioxide emissions of building conventional automobiles. Further, electric vehicles are charged with electricity generated from conventional fossil fuels and require batteries containing toxic chemicals. 

It was 116 years ago that the first commercially available electric car went on the market. Electric cars have been running on empty promises ever since. When it comes to federal subsidies, it’s time to pull the plug.

David A. Ridenour is president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think-tank.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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