DOE Secretary Chu: The U.S. must make electric cars more affordable

Ugh, the never-ceasing folly of central planning in all of its hybridized forms! This particular fool’s errand actually started circulating a couple of weeks back, but I missed it in all the ObamaCare hubbub — and it drives me sufficiently bonkers that I need to just hash it out, so bear with me.


President Obama’s erstwhile goal of getting one million electric cars on the road by 2015 isn’t even potentially close to becoming a reality, but no matter: Obama’s Department of Energy is still leading the charge, reinvigorating the push for the creation and production of plug-in electric vehicles, comparable in cost to conventional vehicles, within ten years.

The “EV Everywhere Grand Challenge” was announced by President Obama in March and the Department of Energy is holding a series of workshops across the country to brainstorm and inspire the dramatic advances needed in batteries, power electronics, motors, lightweight materials and fast-charging infrastructure technology to make it a reality. …

Today electric vehicles with a range of 200 miles, such as the Tesla Roadster, are too expensive. Even the mass-market Nissan Leaf at $36,050 (not counting the $7,500 tax credit) has a payback period of seven years at $4 a gallon, according to …

Chu said the goal is to reduce cost so electric vehicles such as the Leaf can come down about $10,000 in price and there is a choice of EVs with a 100-mile range in the $23,000 price range …

Chu wants to see better lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles — he thinks they can improve their efficiency as much as threefold — and the ability to replace individual bad cells in a battery.


This is just ridiculous. The DOE would like for batteries to improve their efficiency threefold, in less than ten years — well, why not sixfold, in four years? Heck, why not demand batteries that run on happy thoughts and fairy dust, right now?

Like Secretary Chu, I most definitely believe that non-conventional vehicles are a real possibility, but you can’t force them to become a reality on an arbitrary timeline just because you wish it.

The American people aren’t sticking with ‘gas-guzzling’ conventional vehicles just to be stubborn and spiteful — it’s just that right now, there are no good substitutes available. If a company could come up with an alternative vehicle that really was more practical, efficient, and affordable, people would buy it. Nobody likes dropping money on a tank of gas — if people felt the benefits of a new type of car were worth the costs, they’d go for it. The incentive for the market to create viable substitutes for conventional vehicles is already there, but the juice has to worth the squeeze. Putting some made-up government timeline on it is only going to encourage rent-seeking and waste everybody’s time, resources, and tax dollars.

By the way, for a quick glimpse into the shortsightedness of the green-is-always-good mindset, here’s a money line from the above article:

Research will also look at reducing the need for rare earth elements or get rid of them altogether.


Ah yes, rare earth elements — otherwise known as REEs. Currently, REEs are used in the manufacture of such environmental pet projects as wind turbines and electric car batteries — but REEs are pretty environmentally costly to extract from the ground. The government has very strict regulations limiting the American REE mining industry, even though we have an abundant supply. So, from where do we obtain all of the REEs we need to produce these government-favored alternative energies? China, that’s where.

Uhm, isn’t President Obama always saying that one of the ostensible main purposes of this green-energy push is to decrease our energy-reliance on dubious foreign sources? What the what?

Yes, Department of Energy, we’d all love it if REEs became obsolete and we could magically produce more affordable vehicle substitutes — but just because you have the tax dollars, bureaucracy, and authority to try and force it about, doesn’t mean you should.

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John Stossel 12:00 AM | June 21, 2024