While campaigning in 2008, President Obama called for 1 million plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles (EV) on the road by 2015. Since then, he’s supported the goal with executive orders and billions in funding. He included it in the 2011 State of the Union Address.
A February 2011 Scientific American analysis titled “Raising the Volt-Age: Is Obama’s Goal of 1 Million Electric Vehicles on U.S. Highways by 2015 Realistic?” states: “the Obama administration realizes that attaining such a goal will be impossible without help from the federal government.” It delineates the billions of dollars in federal spending aimed at reaching what it acknowledges “may still be just a pipe dream.”
2015 is now in the record books, and, after all the EV subsidies for consumers and industry, Reuters reports: “only about 400,000 electric cars have been sold. Last year, sales fell 6 percent over the previous year to about 115,000, despite the industry offering about 30 plug-in models, often at deep discounts.”
Regardless of the slow sales, Reuters says: “the industry continues to roll out new models in response to government mandates and its own desire to create brands known for environmental innovation.” And there is the crux of the EV effort: “environmental innovation”—there is a sense that EVs are the right thing for the environment. Green car advocates say: “EVs are a crucial part of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
All of this, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and appear environmentally innovative and technologically forward, is missing the mark.
In December 2014, a study was released that claimed that electric cars actually produced “3.6 times more soot and smog deaths than those powered by gas.” Study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, says: “It is kind of hard to beat gasoline. …A lot of technologies that we think of as being clean are not better than gasoline.” In reality, these zero-emissions vehicles are generally fueled by coal.
According to Popular Mechanics, researchers “set out to study the effects on human health of various alternative ways to power a car.” Surprisingly, “Internal combustion vehicles running on corn ethanol and electric vehicles powered by electricity from coal were the real sinners.”
While EV advocates want to claim, as one did, that EVs are powered by wind and solar energy, the facts don’t support the fantasy.
In November, the Washington Post (WP) ran a major story: “Electric cars and the coal that runs them.” It points out: “Alongside the boom has come a surging demand for power to charge the vehicles, which can consume as much electricity in a single charge as the average refrigerator does in a month and a half.”
“Thanks to generous tax incentives, the share of electric vehicles has grown faster in the Netherlands than in nearly any other country in the world.” How are they meeting the “surging demand for power?” With three new coal-fueled power plants.
The WP concludes: “But for all its efforts locally and nationally, the Netherlands will blow past its 2020 emissions targets, the result of the new coal-fired power plants.”
The results are similar in China, where EV sales have quadrupled. Last week, Reuters addressed a series of studies by Tsinghua University. The results? “Electric cars charged in China produce two to five times as much particulate matter and chemicals that contribute to smog versus petrol engine cars.”
It turns out that Obama’s 1 million EVs by 2015 was a “pipe dream” after all. Even the federal government didn’t buy the projected quantities. His ideals are not consistent with either consumer interest or technology.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.