Electric cars

Obama Electric Car Fiasco Is A Case of "Unchecked Righteousness"


That's the conclusion of Washington Post columnist Charles Lane in his terrific op-ed, "The Electric Car Mistake," in today's edition. Lane shows just how hollow President Barack Obama's promise to put one million electric cars on America's highways by 2015 is turning out to be. As Lane reports:

President Obama repeatedly declared that, with enough federal aid, we can put a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. His administration has invested about $5?billion in grants, guaranteed loans … and tax incentives to buyers.

Yet Americans bought just 71,000 plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles in the past two years, according to GreenCarReports.com. That's about a third as many as the Energy Department forecast in a 2011 report that attempted to explain why Obama's goal was not preposterous.

Federal billions cannot overcome the fact that electric vehicles and plug-in electric hybrids meet few, if any, of real consumers' needs. Compared with gas-powered cars, they deliver inferior performance at much higher cost. As an American Physical Society symposium on battery research concluded last June: "Despite their many potential advantages, all-electric vehicles will not replace the standard American family car in the foreseeable future."

Lane pulls no punches when he explains why the Obama administration's electric car plan is a fiasco:

I accept the president's good intentions. He didn't set out to rip off the public. Nor was the electric-car dream a Democrats-only delusion. Several Republican pols shared it, too.

Rather, the debacle is a case study in unchecked righteousness. The administration assumed the worthiness and urgency of its goals. Americans should want electric cars, and therefore they would, apparently.

For background see my 2010 article, "Revving Up Electric Cars with Government Cash," where I reported on my visit to the federally subsidized and now defunct car battery manufactuer, Ener1—which is now bankrupt. Go here for to read New York Times reporter John Broder's account of his less-than-successful test-drive last week of the new all-eletctric Tesla S model from Washington to Boston. Naturally Tesla disagrees.