TribLIVE

| Opinion/The Review

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Electric cars are running on empty promises

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

Daily Photo Galleries

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By David A. Ridenour
Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

If government actually could mandate innovation, we could all 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 either 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 the 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 an under-100-mile range 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. As the automotive evaluation firm J.D. Power and Associates notes, 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. They occasionally get sick and need to be taken home. They even, from time to time, get detention and must stay late.

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, electric vehicles fail.

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

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.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Comets hold life building blocks
  2. Marte’s 2 fine defensive plays rescue Pirates in victory over Reds
  3. Small business hangs on fate of Export-Import Bank
  4. Pirates trade for Dodgers 1B/OF Morse, Mariners LHP Happ
  5. More health-care control
  6. Rossi: Nothing huge, but Huntington helped Bucs
  7. Connellsville diners can again ‘Savor the Avenue’
  8. Armstrong inmate escapee charged with murdering family matriarch
  9. FedEx bid faces in-depth probe of bid to buy Dutch express company
  10. Hurdle: Soria likely to assume setup role with Watson
  11. Natural soaps, spinning demo among attractions at Fort Armstrong Folk Festival