Who Needs an Electric Car? By Robert Farago March 26, 2009 OK, yes. All you folks who believe that we must free the country from its dependence on foreign oil and stop the planet from over-heating need an electric vehicle (EV). Well, you want one. I mean, it’s not like you’re walking at the moment is it? And if you are, chances are you can’t afford or don’t want a car, whether it sucks oil from the desert or burns coal through a cord. The problem—for me—is the link between “we” and “need.” Whenever people start telling me what I need, I get the sneaking suspicion that I’m about to lose something I’d like to keep. I reckon most people who drive gas-powered cars are just as skeptical of EVs as I am of demagoguery. Question: does that matter? The chattering classes couldn’t care less. Never mind the environmental effects of amping-up power plants to cater to plug-in nation. EV boosters talk of gas-powered cars and “oil addiction” as if driving a “normal” car makes their drivers sociopaths. At best, they consider Americans who view EVs as glorified golf carts—which, in the main, at the moment, they are—as morally blind. But really, anyone who resists the call of the plug is lazy, selfish and greedy. Of course, it’s not their fault. They’re hapless victims of a vast conspiracy between the oil companies and Detroit. Big Oil and Big Wheel lured them into gas-guzzling cars and OMG SUVs to satisfy the mega-corporations’ selfish, planet killing greed. (Yup, there’s them words again.) Well guess what? We’re from the federal government and we’re here to help you trade in that gas guzzler for a cheap, clean-running electric vehicle. Whether you like it or not. Yes you—and by “you” I mean the government—can force drivers to switch from gas to electric propulsion. All the feds have to do: make it financially onerous (i.e., painful) for motorists to drive a “normal” car. At one end of the spectrum, Uncle Sam could simply outlaw gas-powered automobiles. Federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations already dictate the type of vehicles that automakers must/can build. Tweak the rules here and there, allow for a “transition” period, and we can kiss that pesky gas pump goodbye. Alternatively, the feds could simply tax the living NSFW out of gas-powered cars. Gas tax hikes, registration fee increases, carbon penalties, road pricing, etc. could create the exodus that simple political correctness will not. Given the U.K.’s experience with cigarette tax (nearly seven bucks a pack), any such “incentive” to leave gas behind would have to be a truly ridiculous tariff. But it would work. In fact, it is working. Slowly. Which is the only way it can work, politically. If politicians tried to jump from point A to point e in one go, the public would hand them their hats. Instead, we get CAFE’s point B. What’s the bet that EVs and plug-in electric vehicles are given sky-high CAFE-complying mpg ratings? Raise the CAFE standards high enough, and EVs are a dead cert. Lest we forget who created the electric car [hint: the California legislature]. The “cash for clunkers” legislation is point B: XXXL vouchers for plug-in or fully electric hybrid vehicles. If enacted, the bill’s incentives would represent the “pull” side of pulled pork. Anyone remember the Department of Energy’s $25b re-tooling “loans” for American automakers gearing-up fuel efficient vehicles? Same sandwich. Point Q: the California Clean Air Resource Board’s flirtation with the idea of outlawing black paint, to reduce the energy needed to keep them cool. Still, it’s a question of slope angle, not slipperiness. OK, so I’m wearing a tin foil hat and yes, I’m anti-EV. Sorry. It’s not because I have a Scott Burgess-like love of a rumbling V8 in the morning. Although God knows I do. Nor is it insensitivity to the planet’s plight. Although I think about the planet in terms of millions of years rather than last week. And I’m not a Bedard-like reactionary who sees changing a toilet paper roll as an affront to common sense. It’s simply this: EVs are a cynical attempt to avoid reality. EVs defenders tout plug-in automobiles as a bridge to an oil-free future. (To wit: Chevy’s tagline from gas-efficient to gas free.) I call bullshit. EVs are the rolling equivalent of Chrysler and GM’s “viability plan.” It’s a bridge to a place that I don’t believe exists. In the EVs case, we’re talking about a world where America trades-in over 100 years of gasoline-fired prosperity for what? Nuclear power powered vehicles? Hang on; that works for me. Tell you what. Once the feds build a bunch of nuclear power plants, once they prove that switching to battery power can reduce pollution and oil imports, then I’ll buy an EV. Only how come I don’t feel like I won’t get a say in this?