E-Car Adoption is Being Killed with Good Intentions

These “good intentions” are coming from both the far right and far left sides of the political spectrum, with the far left’s misplaced political correctness becoming almost as dangerous as the far right’s global warming denialism.

We are in a rapidly worsening climate emergency, and still, too many smart states, including highly progressive states such as Massachusetts, are fiddling while the world burns. We need to act like we’re faced with a real emergency instead of an inconvenience. Fatigue is a pathetic excuse while you are being hunted by a wild beast that means to slowly eat you alive.

We need to encourage everyone to buy electric cars, install solar, choose clean over dirty products and services and food, and more. Instead, many states, including Massachusetts, have passed incentives with self-defeating caps and limits that are aimed at political correctness instead of saving our planet. Who cares if someone buys a $50,001 dollar electric car instead of a $50,000 dollar electric car (the current Massachusetts sticker price cap for a rebate)?

It is absurd to allow political correctness like this to be the enemy of saving our world. Does climate change have a cap? In the middle of a five-alarm fire, we should not care how much the e-car costs or if they are purchased by higher or lower-income people or a rental car company or the 500 richest people in the country or a taxi service. We just need more e-cars on the road. The same is true for solar and other types of beneficial green tech.

Larger and broader subsidies are needed to vastly accelerate adoption by everyone. The subsidies need to be instant, not income tax based, and apply to both used and new cars, and these subsidies need to remain in place until e-cars become as equally affordable as their gas counterparts. We also need rules to prevent manufacturers and dealers from raising their prices in response to subsidies.

New Jersey and other states with similar incentives as New Jersey are getting it right, while states like Massachusetts are getting it so dangerously wrong. In New Jersey, in addition to incentives on some vehicles, there is no sales tax on any e-car, which equals instant cash in hand. Also, in New Jersey, there is no inspection for e-cars and no property tax for any car. These are real incentives for real people to switch to real e-cars.

While back in states like Massachusetts, we add insult to injury by tacking on substantial property tax for every e-car. In just a few years, this property tax will have gobbled up any rebate the purchaser may have gotten for switching to that new electric car that cost them far more than an equivalent gas car. By any measure, that is a stiff disincentive to trade in your gas guzzler for an e-car.

The Federal government also gets it dangerously wrong by adding a sticker price cap of $55,000 and requiring the battery and its components to be sourced and made in America, Canada, or Mexico. These two provisions work in tandem to exclude many, if not all, of the more practical longer-range e-cars. It does this by either outright excluding the car due to foreign components or materials, or by driving up the price of the North American made battery and, therefore, the car price, which in turn causes the window sticker to exceed the $55,000 cap.

Estimates are that 70% of e-cars will be excluded from all federal incentives. Was this intentional? Is this a North American trade protectionist bill or a climate protection bill? We are still in the early days of a climate crisis of unimaginable scale. This self-destructive political correctness and pandering would be like people on the Titanic arguing about the source of the lifeboats or how much someone paid for them or the socioeconomic status of the passengers while the ship sinks with everyone aboard.

The cost of the environmental damage and health problems linked to gas and gas-powered vehicles has never been factored into the price of those vehicles or a gallon of gas. This failure to display on the window sticker in flashing red neon the real complete cost has been a key driving factor for this crisis. If every manufacturer and every consumer had to pay upfront for the environmental and health damages caused by their gas-powered cars, then many would have acted differently. The same is true for each gallon of gas.

Why are only 1% of the cars in our country electric? Why are only 0.4% of the cars in progressive Massachusetts electric? Decades of lack of political leadership is one big glaring reason. We have laws and policies that punish successful e-car companies and reward the laggards, while confusing people with convoluted incentives they may never receive. Right now, we should be heavily taxing the production and sale of gas-powered cars, heavily taxing registration renewals of gas-powered cars, and using that money for simple real e-car incentives. We should also be outright banning the sale of new gas-powered cars before this decade is out.

We put a man on the moon in a decade and reaped a whirlwind of benefits from that government-subsidized race into space that gave us the microchip and every piece of high-tech gear we own, from mobile phones to notebook computers to medical miracle machines. Can you imagine what good we could reap by challenging ourselves to go after a difficult environmental target instead of going with the flow of the status quo adrift in a deep river of oil money?

We also urgently need to counter the propaganda against e-cars and clean energy in general. Scientific study after study has shown that every e-car, cradle to grave, pollutes less than gas-powered cars, regardless the energy source. Yet, time and again, people drag out the old canard that if you get your electrical power from coal, gas cars pollute less than electric cars. This absurdity is not correct, and even if it was correct, every e-car sold comes with free automatic pollution upgrades that occur day after day as the grid gets cleaner and cleaner. What other consumer product can make that environmental claim?

Other critical disinformation that is slowing electric car adoption is that expensive high-powered chargers are needed and that we would instantly crush the power grid if everyone switched to electric cars. The vast majority of electric car owners charge at home. Most people do not need more than a standard 120V outlet to charge their cars. This is called level 1 charging. Electric cars typically charge at 4 to 5 miles per hour on a standard 120V outlet. If we do the math, most cars sit idle at home for at least 12 hours a day, and in that time, 48 to 60 miles of range can be added from a 120V outlet. The average American drives 14,000 miles a year. That’s 38 miles per day. Providing 120V outlets in apartment building garages and places of work are also far less expensive than level 2 chargers (i.e. a 240V clothes dryer outlet).

Right now, the single greatest obstacle to wider electric car adoption, as well as home solar and other green tech, is the price tag and the failure of state and federal governments to address this issue. While we are waiting for our respective governments to get their act into gear, everyone in the country needs to stop looking at e-cars in terms of how much money they may save and start looking at it in terms of protecting the future for our children and the planet. After all, what good is money or even food on the table in the short term when your house and the farm, where that food is grown, are being burnt to the ground by climate change?