Many states still rely on coal-burning power plants to generate over half of their electricity; electric cars are actually responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions per mile driven than hybrid cars, and are no better for the environment than comparable traditional vehicles. The hybrid Toyota Prius produces less carbon dioxide than the plug-in Nissan Leaf. The highly subsidized Chevrolet Volt in electric mode produces just as much carbon dioxide as it does when it operates in gas mode.
Lithium, the material in electric car batteries, can be resource intensive to mine. Since supplies of Lithium are limited, prices are expected to increase. Further lithium batteries need Copper and Aluminum to work correctly. Mining these elements requires significant chemicals, energy, and water.
Meanwhile conventional vehicles are becoming more fuel-efficient. For the 2013 model year, new cars averaged 23.5 miles per gallon. Cars averaged only 16.0 miles per gallon in 1980. With higher gasoline prices, manufacturers are scrambling to create even more fuel vehicles in the future.
Further, consumers are hardly demanding electric cars. Despite a $7,500 federal subsidy for buyers (and numerous state incentives), Chevrolet sold only 23,000 electric-powered Volts in 2012. The automaker sold more than 10 times as many Chevrolet Cruzes, the company’s gas-powered sister vehicle. By contrast, Ford sells 58,000 F-Series trucks a month.
Further, these programs fail to increase total car sales. Instead, they incentivize buyers to purchase a particular type of car — a Volt instead of a Cruz. Since consumers would buy a car anyway, this subsidy is a waste of precious resources.
Local municipalities like electric vehicle programs since much the subsidies come from federal and state sources. But this is not a federal freebie; it is a waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned money — money that instead could be spent or actual programs that improve transportation of the environment or better yet refunded to taxpayers.