Who's killing the electric car?

who killed the electric car
Promo image Who killed the electric car?

It's déjà vu all over again and the fossil forces and state governments gang up on the nascent industry

Remember the movie, Who killed the electric car? It may well be time for a sequel, because it appears that the forces of fossil fuel evil are at it again. This time, it is primarily State governments, which had been providing economic incentives to electric cars. But according to Hiroko Tabuchi in the New York Times, those incentives are drying up and are even turning into new fees.

Today, the economic incentives that have helped electric vehicles gain a toehold in America are under attack, state by state. In some states, there is a move to repeal tax credits for battery-powered vehicles or to let them expire. And in at least nine states, including liberal-leaning ones like Illinois and conservative-leaning ones like Indiana, lawmakers have introduced bills that would levy new fees on those who own electric cars. The state actions could put the business of electric vehicles, already rocky, on even more precarious footing. That is particularly true as gas prices stay low, and as the Trump administration appears set to give the nascent market much less of a hand.

The electric car market is still really small, about 1 percent of the market, and many believe that it will need subsidies for a while yet. The worry is that if governments turn their back on it, then history will repeat itself:

A slowdown in the country’s shift toward battery-powered vehicles could leave the American auto market a global laggard, electric vehicle proponents warn. They say a similar situation played out a couple of decades ago, when American car companies stayed away from small cars, leaving a big opening for Japanese companies.

In Colorado, the tax credit of $ 5,000 is under attack by Americans for Prosperity and the Independence Institute, described as a “libertarian think tank based in Denver that has been financed by coal, oil and gas companies.” They object to government money being given to “rich guys” driving Teslas.

Musk with TeslaTesla/Promo image

In testimony before Colorado lawmakers, Rudy Zitti, deputy state director at Americans for Prosperity, said, “By allowing these subsidies to continue, you are unfairly choosing to use our tax dollars to benefit a finite group of individuals and corporate interests.”

Meanwhile, Elon Musk has said that “he supports getting rid of incentives, but only if other subsidies are repealed, including support for fossil fuel industries.”

On a nice level playing field it is likely that electric cars would probably do quite well. Even in the face of all these challenges, people remain optimistic. as Gina Coplon-Newfield of the Sierra Club notes:

“Are we worried about what the federal government will likely try to do? Yes,” she said. “And we’re concerned that many similar bills are coming out in many states at the same time.” She added: “But do we think that’s going to kill electric vehicles? Absolutely not.”

Nissan Leaf photoSami Grover/CC BY 2.0

TreeHugger Sami has demonstrated that you don't have to be a rich guy to own an electric car (he bought a used Leaf), that they are really low maintenance, that range anxiety isn't an issue. He writes: "I have lost count of how many friends are interested, and many are now talking about taking the plunge themselves. I have said it before, but I think we may all be surprised by how quickly electrified transportation really takes off."

Others who have taken the plunge say much the same thing. I suspect that the forces of fossil fuels with have a lot more trouble killing the electric car this time.

Tags: Electric Vehicles | Environmental Policy

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