On Politics: Why the buzz about electric vehicles?
September 10, 2017
In 2011, President Barack Obama announced a goal of having one million electric vehicles (EVs) on America's roads by the year 2015.
He allocated $2.4 billion in "stimulus" money to subsidize EV production and manufacture of their components in addition to a $7,500 per vehicle federal subsidy program. California Gov. Jerry Brown responded by nursing a state vehicle purchase subsidy bill through his Democrat-dominated legislature.
So far, neither measure has been a resounding success. Despite the Golden State's funding of over $450 million in EV purchase subsidies, the Los Angeles Times reported that of over 2 million cars purchased by Californians in 2016 only 75,000 were EVs.
Undaunted by these meager results, California's free-spending legislature just allocated $3 billion for the sole purpose of increasing subsidies for purchasers of electric vehicles. The measure itself is a little vague leaving the amount of subsidy per vehicle to the state's air resources board.
It's also unclear where the funds are coming from. All California Republican legislators oppose the bill, but they caucus in a phone booth so they are powerless to derail this juggernaut.
All this is great for Northern Nevada, the Silver State's newly launched tech hub, which is a bee hive of economic activity funded by money that otherwise might have been invested in Silicon Valley. But is subsidizing purchase of EVs the smartest use for taxpayer dollars? Let's take a look.
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Writing in Forbes Magazine, engineer-author Louis Woodhill reports that the first mass-produced EV, the Nissan Leaf, costs twice as much as a comparable Nissan Versa ($35,000 vs. $17,000), is slower, and has only a quarter of the range.
He goes on to posit that at $0.11 per kilowatt hour and $4 for a gallon of gasoline you would have to drive your Leaf 164,000 miles to recover the higher marginal cost. But if the price differential is subsidized by both the federal and California taxpayers who cares?
Perhaps EV car purchasers should. Outside of California there is a real dearth of public charging stations, according to an Associated Press report. It quotes Pasquale Romano, CEO of Charge-Point, the largest electric charging station provider in North America and Europe, as saying that highways need a station for every 50 to 75 miles.
And EV drivers need a lot of spare time going from point A to point B if it's any distance at all. Also if you're driving an EV on Interstate 80 in a snowstorm, wipers, headlights and heating can sap half your battery charge.
But policy issues, which should be of greater importance to California's governor and legislators, apparently aren't. First of all is the issue of emissions. While EV's have no tail pipes their electricity has to come from somewhere. Currently 60 percent of the electricity needed to recharge EV batteries is generated from coal.
And how about the threat to the power grid of a slew of EV's all recharging at once during a heat wave? A taxpayer-subsidized flood of EV's poses the potential of causing brownouts and blackouts triggering the building of more and more power plants. How will the power plants be powered?
What about battery supplies? Again, Nevada comes off the winner having the only lithium mine in the United States and the largest battery manufacturing plant in the world just east of Reno. But the corollary is that 92 percent of the world's lithium comes from outside the U.S. Have we finally eliminated our dependence on foreign oil only to replace it with a dependence on foreign lithium?
Finally, what do we do about the ecological challenges posed by all the spent batteries? Hmmm. Looks like Nevada wins again. We can finally put the Yucca Mountain facility to use.
So if Democrats want to waste taxpayers' money with self-defeating "feel good" legislation, Nevadans should cheer them on as we drive our gas guzzlers to the bank.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.