The administration’s rosy hope: If we build it, they will sell, hasn’t panned out. Sales of GM’s hybrid Volt and Nissan’s Leaf are much below expectations in spite of heavy U.S. government subsidies. In fact, GM is temporarily suspending Volt production – again. Even the liberal Washington Post is disenchanted:
“No matter how you slice it, the American taxpayer has gotten precious little for the administration’s investment in battery-powered vehicles, in terms of permanent jobs or lower carbon dioxide emissions. There is no market, or not much of one, for vehicles that are less convenient and cost thousands of dollars more than similar-sized gas-powered alternatives — but do not save enough fuel to compensate. The basic theory of the Obama push for electric vehicles — if you build them, customers will come — was a myth. And an expensive one, at that.”
Part of the problem is that electric cars are impractical due to their limited range given the current state of battery technology. We knew that 100 years ago. The vehicle in the photo is the 1911 Baker Electric which could go 50 miles on one battery charge. The GM Volt can go 40 miles on a charge. The Nissan Leaf claims 100 miles on a charge, but that varies from 47 to 138 miles depending on conditions. By the way, hybrid vehicles, first developed in 1916, just make automobiles unnecessarily complex.
Emphasizing the impracticality of electric cars, a story last year about driving a Leaf from San Diego, California, to Tucson, Arizona, found that what is normally an 8-hour drive took a week in a Leaf.
GM is losing money on each Volt they make. They are selling the Volt for about $40,000 (much more expensive than comparable gasoline-power models), but it costs GM $89,000 to manufacture the vehicle according to Reuters.
Sales of the Volt have been weak even though federal agencies (i.e. taxpayers) have been buying or plan to buy them.
Another, related issue is The EPA’s Electric Vehicle Mileage Fraud. The EPA calculates a miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) for electric cars that estimates the amount of fossil fuels which must be burned to create the electricity to charge the batteries of an electric car. In a Forbes article, Warren Meyers shows that “The EPA’s methodology is flawed because it assumes perfect conversion of the potential energy in fossil fuels to electricity, an assumption that violates the second law of thermodynamics. The Department of Energy has a better methodology that computes electric vehicle equivalent mileage based on real world power plant efficiencies and fuel mixes, while also taking into account energy used for refining gasoline for traditional cars. Using this better DOE methodology, we get MPGe’s for electric cars that are barely 1/3 of the EPA figures.”
It seems that the great green hype is more hope than reality. This exercise in crony capitalism and green dreaming demonstrates the incompetence of government in the marketplace.