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Caroline C. Lewis / Nov. 16, 2017

The Problem With Electric Cars

At just 1% of the world's vehicles, mandates, bans and other regulations are becoming the "solution."

In spite of what you may have heard, electric cars don’t have the market share you might think. A new report from the Energy Information Administration reveals that although plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) (which include battery electric vehicles and hybrid plug-in electric vehicles) have reached 1.2 million in worldwide sales in 2015, such cars account for only 1% of vehicles in global use.

Why is this?

Some of it has to do with consumer preference — what people want to drive. Some of it has to do with public policy — that the government isn’t forcing people to get rid of their fossil fuel dependent cars. Yet.

Many countries realize that consumers prefer gas and diesel vehicles to electric ones and thus seek to remedy this “problem” by coercion. Britain and France have both vowed to ban the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2040. California’s governor has also made statements about phasing out traditional cars. These sorts of statements always carry with them a hidden coercive element, because, as research shows, people won’t switch if it’s up to their preferences. People will only switch if the government mandates it.

Driven by central planning authorities, governments and leaders hope to control the population’s preferences by simply changing their choices. Instead of “Which car do you want?” they hope to ask, “Which of these electric car options do you want? You have no other options.”

Coercion not only compromises the free-market ethic of choices, but it stands as a hallmark feature of totalitarianism and can be identified in practices of the former Soviet Union, modern Cuba and every other communist nation. Cuba’s communist dictatorship holds elections, but only gives the citizens communist “options.” The regime enforces “free and fair elections” by threatening to punish those who do not vote. Ultimately, government coercion does not allow freedom — of choices, of preferences, or of life in general.

Moreover, electric-car supporters seem to charge America with the greatest culpability in not being “green enough.” Yet recent data reveals that the U.S. has declined in emissions, while global emissions have increased. How? China.

China’s emissions account for 30% of the world’s emissions according to the Center for International Climate Research. China stands as the world’s largest polluter and according to the recent Global Carbon Project study, with an expected 3.5% increase in emissions this year.

When confronted with this reality, many environmentalists simply state, “Well, America should lead the way. We should be the world’s example.” Yet this hasn’t seemed to change China’s mind. Prudent policy toward cleaner global air should include confronting China with its problem, not simply cleaning up the U.S. as an “example.”

We should also be asking the question, “Who is getting all of the money?” The answer lies in government-subsidized electric car companies. Even Bloomberg observes, “Clean-energy vehicles still aren’t attractive enough to compete without some form of subsidy.” Take, for instance, Tesla, which would have been underwater long ago if it had not been for government (i.e. taxpayer) money. The Las Angeles Times reports that Tesla, along with her sister companies Solar City Corp. (solar panels) and SpaceX (space exploration) have received roughly $4 billion dollars in government subsides.

In short, the entire premise of going “all electric” so far relies solely upon government money. This means that even if you don’t buy an electric car, your tax dollars are essentially paying for someone else’s — or at least covering the sales loss if they don’t sell.

The highly subsidized electric car business has become a sort of “cottage industry” for the federal government from which both electric car companies and the government benefit. Combined with the increased desire to coercively force consumers to purchase them while ignoring health concerns shows a lack of both intellectual freedom and free market purchasing freedom.

Ultimately the debate over electric cars should be about what you prefer to drive, not about what the government forces you to buy.

(*Edited.)

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