Margo Thorning writes in the Wall Street Journal, “Pull the Plug on Electric Car Subsidies: They are costly and don’t do enough to protect the environment,” that the flow of taxpayer money into subsidizing plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) is economically and environmentally harmful, a waste, and should be ended now.
There are a lot of attractive things about plug-in electric vehicles. They’re clean. Much of the assembly and many of the parts are made in the USA. And then there’s the cool factor, provided by the futuristic look.
But before even more taxpayer dollars flow into subsidies for these PEVs, we should look under the hood to see if continued support is warranted.
Electric vehicles have been with us for almost 180 years. The first, an electric carriage created by an inventor named Robert Anderson, made its appearance in Scotland in 1832. By 1907 the American company Cutler-Hammer was advertising electric vehicles and the first electric charging station. Since that time Americans have seen tremendous innovations is everything from air travel to microwaves, yet there has been little progress converting consumers from gasoline-powered cars to vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries.
One hundred years after the Cutler-Hammer electric car, today’s plug-in electric vehicles receive failing grades from consumers and consumer advocates.
Consumer Reports doesn’t have good early reviews for Chevrolet’s flagship entry into electric vehicles. A top editor from the publication said the Chevy Volt, which has both a plug-in battery and a gasoline engine “isn’t particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it’s not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy.” He concluded that it just “doesn’t make an awful lot of sense.”
He’s right when you consider the cost and performance of PEVs, starting with the batteries, which require major breakthroughs before they will be ready for prime time. A battery for a small vehicle like the Nissan Leaf can cost about $20,000 and still only put out a range of 80 miles on a good day (range is affected by hot and cold weather) before requiring a recharge that takes eight to 10 hours. Even then, those batteries may only last six to eight years, leaving consumers with a vehicle that has little resale value.
Home installation of a recharging unit costs between $900 and $2,100. And don’t forget workplace and retail recharging stations, which will be necessary. . . .