Business & Economics Energy

Electric Vehicle Hype

by John McClaughry

This is from a True North Reports interview by Lou Varicchio, May 1, 2019

“In an interview with True North, McClaughry said electric vehicles are not well suited for Vermont’s rutted, muddy back roads. He also said New England’s cold winters diminish EV battery capacity by as much as 35 percent, a factor rarely discussed by GMP or its green-energy partners.

“Like electric heat pumps, more electric cars in Vermont means more revenues and profits for Green Mountain Power, especially when the state government is financing the necessary recharging stations,” McClaughry said. “So there’s a business justification for luring customers with an EV purchase bonus.

“Of course, if the GMP customer buys the EV, pockets the bonus, and decamps for Florida where the EV will perform a lot better, GMP will be facing a dead loss. Another benefit: the Another benefit: the Vermont Energy Action Network, which is clamoring for an increase from the present 3,000 to 90,000 EVs by 2025, may give GMP an award, justifying another press release.”…

Despite the hype from green advocates, auto makers and even state legislators, McClaughry isn’t necessarily taking the bait.

“EVs do not come without problems,” he wrote in one [2017] commentary. “Even though 13 manufacturers now offer vastly improved EVs with greater ranges and lower prices, and the $7,500 Federal tax credit is still available, there has not been a rush to buy EVs. Most of the EVs sold are bought by high-income purchasers. A 2015 study found that buyers of the lower-cost Ford Focus EV had an average household income of $199,000, more than three times the U.S. median household income. Tesla owners’ incomes averaged $293,200.”

McClaughry also cautions that EV powertrain repairs require expert technicians and do not come cheap. Plus charging an EV requires both time and patience — EVs do not provide the “gas-and-go” advantages conventional private and commercial vehicle operators are used to.

“Even where a charging station is convenient, there can be ‘charging time trauma’,” McClaughry wrote. “Public charging stations primarily use 240-volt (GMP’s ‘free’ Level 2) chargers that charge a Tesla Model-3 in 6.5 hours. Motorists won’t find that acceptable on the Interstate.”

McClaughry isn’t totally opposed to EV use; he’s just focused on the sometimes hidden agendas from the parties involved in pushing the technology. He says he’d like to see government get out of the way and let EVs succeed or fall on their own merits.

He’d also like to see EVs “share the road” with conventional vehicles when it comes to sharing Vermont’s highway maintenance costs. For example, the state could charge a registration surcharge on electric vehicles to help pay for Vermont’s highways and bridges.

The green subsidies critic also has suggested that the state designate and permit public sites for charging stations, but then price the energy delivered by these publicly-owned chargers so as to pay off their own costs.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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