The Electric Car Conspiracy

ssvs-kb_128I confess. It is true. I’ve been driving an electric car for years. I must have been brainwashed in my sleep by crafty environmental terrorists. There is after all no other rational explanation for a loyal American to drive an e-car instead of one powered by a gas guzzling polluting internal combustion engine. Everyone knows e-cars are a part of a vast leftwing socialist conspiracy to overthrow the free enterprise system. General Motors, the maker of the Chevy Volt and Bolt e-cars is clearly a very un-American company because well… GM makes those nasty Volts and Bolts… and let’s also not forget about Tesla, that other great un-American company.

The truth is that I drive an e-car because I love our little blue planet and my fellow humans. I’m willing to pay more for a car that pollutes less. For me it’s a way to give back. The fact that it costs me $13 a month to “fuel” my e-car is simply icing on the cake.

Why does the rightwing media love big oil and hate e-cars so much that they’re spreading false news… ummm… well… fake news? Why have groups within the Republican party lobbied so hard for roadblocks against e-cars, and specifically against Tesla and GM which are great all-American success stories?

E-car bashing seems to have originated as collateral damage from Climate Change denial. Early on, the GOP political machine began proclaiming e-cars were bad because they received government subsidies. The oil industry receives countless billions in subsidies every year which dwarfs any subsidies that were made to e-car companies, but the truth died an early and gruesome death in this e-car conspiracy.

The GOP chants soon grew shriller with claims that GM was on the public dole like some corporate version of a welfare mom. The inference was that the Chevy Volt was the result of corporate welfare—and therefore a socialistic central planning aberration that never would have existed if GM had not been concocting ways to steal tax payer dollars. This chant soon grew to include Tesla with accusations that billions of tax payer dollars were being funneled through liberal leftwing deals to Tesla.

The truth is that Tesla was given a government loan which Tesla paid back ahead of schedule, and the government made money on the deal. The truth is that this was never about public loans, government bailouts, and wasting tax payer’s money. It was about using e-cars as a punching bag to score political points with voters who were being trained to hate anything green because well, it was green, and we all know anything green is automatically suspect and bad. It was also very likely in a more limited sense about protecting the interests of giant corporate constituents that were in the in oil or the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car business.

Next came several “unbiased” rightwing think tank reports that GM lost thousands on each Volt that they sold. The dishonesty in these reports was breathtaking. The reality was that GM incurred normal R&D costs for the Volt just like every company that develops a new product. When this R&D cost is ultimately amortized over the entire life of the product, it is clear that GM will make plenty of money on the Volt; and this does not include next generation products which are offshoots of the Volt such as the Chevy Bolt. GM is not a stupid company. They know how to make money making cars. Like a bad remake of a horror movie, this same blood covered paint brush was soon applied to Tesla with the same diabolical motives and same disregard for the facts.

The Chevy Volt has been voted Car of the Year by many publications and organizations. The Chevy Bolt has been voted car of the year. The Tesla has been voted car of the year more than any other brand in recent history. Tesla was given the highest rating ever by Consumer Reports.

The truth is that these e-vehicles are revolutionary pieces of American automotive design that should be praised by any supporter of the free enterprise system, but sadly instead these amazing American cars are villainized by the rightwing media knowing or unknowingly serving a hidden agenda.

Just as with the climate change conspiracy, the lies about e-cars only grew bigger, shriller, and farther afield from anything even remotely smelling of scientific facts. A favorite trope that seems to get rolled out every few months in rightwing media is that e-cars pollute more than ICE cars when you factor in full cradle to grave impact including pollution from power plants. The pseudo-science studies quoted in these hit jobs are: (a) funded by vested interests and (b) the work of someone with little or no relevant scientific experience. Not so remarkably, every nonpartisan scientific study showed the exact opposite; this includes studies done by highly respected scientific and engineering organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Every nonpartisan scientific study found that even in areas of the country where they have the dirtiest coal powered electrical plants, e-cars are still over 20% cleaner than ICE cars cradle to grave. In cleaner electrical power states like California or New York, e-cars are over 70% cleaner than ICE cars cradle to grave. The national average is 60%. There is also the indisputable fact that every ICE car will pollute more as they age, while the opposite is true for e-cars. As every e-car ages it pollutes less because every year the power grids get cleaner. So every e-car comes with built-in zero cost pollution lowering upgrades for the life of the car.

When the rightwing’s propaganda proved inadequate to damage e-car sales, they began pushing road taxes for e-cars. It’s fascinating to watch the contortions of logic which are necessary to promote taxes just on e-cars. A common claim is that e-cars are getting a free ride on public roads because they were not paying their fair share of taxes through the purchase of gasoline. The hypocrisy behind these proposed taxes is made clear by the facts. Trucks cause over 9,000 times more road damage than cars, so the road damage caused by e-cars is negligible. At the same time ICE cars and trucks wreak vast untold damage to the environment for which they are not taxed a penny. So if you’re going to tax e-cars for negligible road wear then ICE cars and trucks should be taxed for their far greater costly environmental damage.

The proposed e-car taxes typically result in taxing e-cars at an absurdly high rate that equates to e-cars driving 2 to 4 times as many miles per year than their ICE car counterparts. For example: Indiana’s recent e-car tax results in rates equivalent to driving each e-car 66,000 miles per year verses 12,000 for ICE cars. Additionally, the number of e-cars on the road is tiny when compared to ICE cars. Any revenue a state gets from e-car road taxes is laughably tiny; often less than $50,000 per year total in states with budgets measured in the billions. But the damage done to e-car sales by these taxes is very real when a prospective e-car buyer sees they will have to pay extra taxes for owning an e-car. Score one for the rightwing conspiracy.

Car manufacturers who are losing the e-car race have for years been mudding the waters by proposing hydrogen powered cars, and thereby doing the bidding of the oil industry. There are many facts that make Hydrogen powered cars highly impractical when compare to battery powered e-cars. The reality is that hydrogen powered cars are at best nothing more than a sheep in petrochemical industry clothing and at worst a Trojan Horse.

There is no infrastructure to deliver hydrogen to the pump, and for that matter no hydrogen gas stations either. So to make hydrogen cars usable, we would have to spend billions to trillions on delivery infrastructure. E-cars already have this infrastructure. It’s called the electrical power grid.

Cradle to grave e-cars are at least 3 times more energy efficient than hydrogen cars. Ninety-five percent of hydrogen in America is made from natural gas employing a method called natural gas reforming. So for the foreseeable future, most of the hydrogen for the supposedly clean hydrogen cars would come from natural gas! Yes, that’s right. Hydrogen is a product of the oil and gas industry. True you can get hydrogen from electrolysis of water, but there is no efficient way to do that right now. So hydrogen is nothing more than a dirty fuel in disguise. I wonder who is really pushing these “clean” hydrogen cars of the future?

Over the years there have been far too many large and small acts of conspiracy to list. What matters is that this conspiracy insidiously continues in every way imaginable. We now have organizations claiming that electric cars are just too quiet and as a result pose a serious danger to pedestrians!

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) responded with a Kafkaesque new rule that all e-cars must emit noise while traveling at less than 19 mph. Never mind that there are little or no hard statistics to back up this theoretical threat to pedestrians. Never mind that many Cadillacs, Lexus, Mercedes, Rolls-Royces, and other premium cars are just as quiet as e-cars at low speed. There are far more of these luxury cars on the road than electric cars. Why has this terrible threat to safety of quiet cars never been addressed until now? Why does the new rule specifically single out electric cars and not quiet cars? Why are quiet gas powered cars not required to make extra noise too? To me the answer is very simple. Many though not all of the organizations lobbying for this new rule must have ulterior motives against electric cars.

Don’t we already have too much noise pollution? Do we really need to add more noise pollution by making e-cars beep? Why should we make our clean e-cars noise pollute? As the percentage of e-cars on the road inevitably goes up, can you imagine the chaos this misguided e-car noise rule will cause during rush hour when traffic is crawling through your neighborhood and every e-car is obnoxiously beeping? What about a parking lot full of beeping e-cars coming from all directions? People will grow to hate those noisy e-cars, which I suspect is the real motive behind many of those who lobbied for this rule.

It’s a shocking statistic and testament to the wizards behind the curtains of the e-car conspiracy that 60% of Americans still do not even know that electric cars exist. Over a hundred years ago, electric cars were invented before internal combustion cars, and e-cars will exist long after the last dead dinosaur powered cars are relegated to the dustbin of history along with buggy whips and whale oil lamps.

E-Cars are superior to ICE cars in every measure from performance to core mechanical simplicity to energy efficiency to lower pollution. E-cars have fewer moving parts and as a result require far less maintenance in each comparable class of cars from economy to luxury to sports cars. This is why many car dealerships hate e-cars. Most car dealerships make more money repairing cars than selling cars. So it is in their financial interest to sell you a car that is less reliable than an e-car. This is one of the reasons why Tesla is circumventing car dealerships.

Years ago I had a “heated conversation” with a friend who was a Republican from Texas. He was arguing about how e-cars were bad for America spouting all the media fake news meals he’d been fed. I countered by asking him three questions: (1) Why is it bad for America to make e-cars that will help clean up the environment? (2) Why is it bad to create new American industries and American jobs that would make America the leader in the next car revolution instead of China or Japan? (3) Why is it bad to ween ourselves off our addiction to oil and stop sending American dollars to middle eastern countries some of whom fund terrorism? Aren’t these three things the kinds of goals that any patriotic American should aspire to? My Texan friend was quiet for a long time then he said I might just be right. He was going to give e-cars serious look.

Isn’t it time we stopped using ICE cars? Even if e-cars are initially more expensive to buy than equivalent ICE cars—which is not always true—the “cradle to grave dollar cost for ICE cars” is far too high to continue using them. If the full cost of pollution was added to the sticker price, e-cars would have always been far cheaper to buy than ICE cars.

If I leave my e-car running in a garage, it will not kill me with poisonous gases coming from its tailpipe. For me this is the perfect distillation of the entire debate. E-cars are safer while ICE cars are silently killing us. How much more loss of human life and environmental damage has to occur before this conspiracy of fake-news and ulterior motives is exposed for what it is?

References:

(1) 12,000 Miles per year: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/data/10309

(2)  Union of Concerned Scientists e-car report: http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2015/11/Cleaner-Cars-from-Cradle-to-Grave-full-report.pdf