Reasons to Rethink Electric Cars

It's a "brick"

Here are a few good reasons to think about just how much more federal money ($5 billion and counting) should be poured into subsidizing electric cars:

A new study from the University of Tennessee finds that electric cars cause worse pollution in China than standard gas-burning cars. The bottom line is that one has to look beyond just the cars’ emissions—since they run on electricity, one must look at the effects of the production of that electricity. And in China, production of electricity for the cars results in much more overall harmful particulate matter pollution than if everyone drove a gasoline-powered car:

in terms of air pollution, electric vehicles were more harmful to public health per kilometer traveled than gasoline-powered cars in China.

It would be interesting to see a similar analysis done on a global basis.

A week or so ago, the owner of a Tesla Roadster found out that the battery of his sporty car had completely drained and could not be recharged. As it turns out:

The battery can be fully drained simply by parking the vehicle too long without charging it because of the vehicles’ always-on systems running quietly in the background and using minuscule amounts of power over the hours and days.

The owner in question had stored his Tesla for 6 weeks while his house was being remodeled, and the car for which he had paid $109,000 and waited 6 months for delivery is now a “brick,” totally non-drivable until he pays $40,000 for a new battery.

Tesla, which has received $465 million in federal financing, has responded that this is very unusual and its next model won’t have this problem.

It is apparently unusual, but not unheard of, including for the Prius whose battery “should” last 7 years. Fortunately, a Prius battery “only” costs about $4,000 to replace.

Fisker automotive, the recipient of $529 million of U.S. federal financing, has already recalled all of its cars—which are produced in Finland—because of a fire hazard.

And it now looks as if the U.S.-produced Volt may be next. In bad news for President Obama’s employment figures, GM will idle 1300 workers at its Chevy Volt production facility for 5 weeks as it hopes sales will draw down its current 154-day supply of unsold cars. Reports that the Volt—with a per-vehicle cost of $250,000 to American taxpayers—has a tendency to catch fire may account in some part for slow sales:

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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