Political Insight | Editorials from the Habledash Team

The Electric Car Boondoggle: Why the Chevy Volt and Others Will Fail

Ford CEO Alan Mulally spilled the beans on a closely guarded secret earlier this week: the battery in the new Ford Focus EV (electric) costs between $12,000 and $15,000, which is about one-third the cost of the car itself.  This is only the start of the electric car boondoggle, an issue that's been hijacked by radical environmentalist liberals.  Since President Obama took office, the notion of alternative energy has been at the forefront of his agenda (see Solyndra).  It's pushed by the Sierra Club, NRDC and GreenPeace, all Democrat front groups.  Ford has sold zero Focus electrics in the last two months, proving this isn't an area for government intervention.  Electric cars are distraction; merely a Band-Aid on the larger issue, which is the supply of oil and where it comes from.

Liberalism is guided by many demented principles, but a primary one is that liberals believe they know what's best and everybody should be forced to follow their orders.  It's where the phrase, "Liberalism: Ideas so good they should be mandatory!" comes from.  Speaking in terms of automobiles, the flailing Chevy Volt is a result of this mindset.  The Volt was pushed by the Treasury Department and the White House.  At a cost of over $150,000 for each vehicle to the taxpayer, the Volt is a case study of how the government cannot change consumer habits, no matter how large the incentive.  This isn't an attack on the revolutionary technology, it's an attack on the imposed will of liberalism and a massive government.

For the past few months, the national price of gas has hovered somewhere around $4 per gallon.  On Tuesday, President Obama, for the third time, claimed he would take action against oil speculators.  He wants to create the Oil Police for $52 million to go after people that are trying to make a profit.  It's not illegal, but it certainly doesn't help reduce the price of oil.  In come the Oil Police!  They're designed to distract from the bigger issue, which is domestic energy production and Obama's veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  Never will Obama address the problem in this situation because it goes against his radical liberal ideology.  He'll invest money in Brazilian oil companies, but not in American companies.  Why?  Petrobras (George Soros is an investor) is a state-owned company - all of the profits go back into the government.

Back to the issue.  Owners of Toyota Prius's have combined average income of over $100,000.  They're not driving the car because of the experience - they drive it to make a statement that they care about the environment.  In reality, hybrids and battery-powered cars arguably use more energy than the internal combustion engine.  The nickel for the battery gets mined in Canada, shipped to Japan - not on a sailboat - and converted into a battery, gets shipped to the production facility and finally to the end user.  That's a massive amount of energy used for transportation.  And most people forget that electric cars still uses energy!

Coming back to the gas prices, shouldn't the high prices have increased sales of hybrids and electric cars?  Arguably yes, but the economy isn't in great shape, so people may just be sticking with what they have.  But the underlying issue with the electric car boondoggle is so basic that any decent auto executive knows it: the experience of driving an electric car is mute; it's a silent thrill.  Cars are supposed to be these great machines; you step on the accelator and know there's something under the hood!  This is engraved in the consumer mindset and cannot be easily altered, no matter how much alternatives, including algae, are pushed by the government.  The emotional connection to the automobile cannot be turned off with the flip of a switch.

Electric cars are not the future, but an interim experiment.  A loaded Ford Focus costs around $22,000.  Why would someone want to pay almost double for an electric version that they'll never fully see the benefits from?  At least Ford got the charging correct because it can use a 240-volt outlet - the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf need custom and expenseive charging stations installed.

Although noble, electric cars are a distraction from the real issues.  Ford likely built this car to help lower their government-imposed CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) rate and show the competition that they're not sitting still.  But they won't sell over 5,000 of these vehicles this year, no matter how big the incentives.  The next big change in transportation fuel won't come from a government imposition, but from the private sector - likely some individual in his garage.  Remember, gasoline was an alternative energy at one point, too.

Chuck Justice is the editor-in-chief for Habledash.

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