The hybrid fallacy
Government can force automakers to sell “zero-emissions” electric and plug-in hybrid cars but can't make buyers want them — or make such vehicles competitive in the market.
Nine states have followed California's lead in requiring such vehicles to make up 15 percent of new-car sales and leases by 2025; automakers face fines and potential sales restrictions if they don't. But even with subsidies such as tax credits for buyers, zero-emissions vehicles — priced far higher than conventional, nearly-as-fuel-efficient models (and hardly having zero emissions when one considers the sources of the electricity created to charge their batteries) — accounted for just one-third of 1 percent of 2013's new-car sales through May, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.
That's why lease rates have since been slashed drastically on Honda's all-electric Fit EV, Chevy's plug-in hybrid Volt and Nissan's all-electric Leaf, cutting any profits to the bone.
Says Butler's Mike Kelly, a GOP congressman and car dealer who's seen the Volt sit unwanted on his lot: “If something is not marketable, then no amount of subsidies will ever sell it. If something is marketable, then subsidies don't matter because it should already be selling itself.”
What's true for subsidies is true for these onerous state sales mandates. In March, two automaker groups filed a petition challenging California's rules with the EPA. But don't expect it to suddenly see the light.
Until government learns that attempting to command markets doesn't work, it will keep attempting the impossible task of making zero-emissions vehicles, which can't compete on their own merits, attractive to buyers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.