Electric vehicle subsidies

In a remarkable technological revolution, the gas-powered automobile is collapsing like a dinosaur, to paraphrase an old Bob Dylan song. Virtually all car manufacturers have announced that they will soon no longer produce gasoline internal combustion engines.

The enormous speed with which the transition to electric vehicles is happening has everything to do with government regulation. Governments around the world are imposing standards to reduce the carbon footprint of vehicles so dramatically that petroleum-based technology is no match for it. Even though the internal combustion engine has managed to transform and change, to become much more efficient and less polluting, it seems that the old-fashioned technology is dead.

The first vehicles on the road were battery or steam powered. However, battery technology did not advance because there were not enough places to charge battery-powered vehicles, it took so long to charge them, and it became necessary to find ways to get rid of the old lead monsters. Of course, we have not yet figured out what to do with the lithium batteries, currently in use, when they expire. Although lithium batteries can last longer than the older lead-acid variety, they will become useless much faster than the average internal combustion engine.

The fire and explosion hazards of lithium-ion batteries, as well as their disposal, have not yet been considered. Lithium-powered vehicles have the same issues that existed over 100 years ago when battery-powered vehicles were first tried in terms of how far they can propel the car and how quickly they can be recharged.

The drive is so dramatic, the pun intended to replace internal combustion engines with electric motors, that even today’s driving magazines endorse the electric vehicle. Hagerty recently pitted the most powerful Cadillac and BMW against a Tesla in a 0-125 mph race. Of course, we all test our cars that way, right? This absurd but exciting video shows that the Tesla far surpasses the Cadillac or the BMW. If speed and torque are all we care about, then the battery-powered car is the clear winner.

The real question is whether the market, left to its own devices and with proper regulatory oversight, would produce a better, more utilitarian product with a lower carbon footprint and greater efficiency? We don’t know the answer to this question because the market has been preempted by government mandates and subsidies that are primarily focused on electric vehicles.

Vehicles with turbo power linked to their internal combustion engines have proven to be powerful, exciting to drive and extremely fuel efficient. However, the government is not betting on internal combustion technology, regardless of the problems that exist with the construction, use and disposal of lithium-ion batteries, let alone recycling the electric motors that are used to propulsion.

Make no mistake, it would be a big mistake to be an anti-electric vehicle. However, one must ask whether government policy should bet on a particular technology, which is still debatable, when other solutions to the carbon footprint problem may exist. The government has shrugged off alternatives, as long as industry is ready to get on board with electricity. Questioning government bureaucrats has never been popular with those we elect to serve us. However, questions should be asked about lithium-ion batteries and electric motors, as opposed to improving the internal combustion engine or developing other technologies.

Reducing carbon emissions to the environment, an important goal, is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are compelling reasons to consider tailpipe carbon monoxide reduction, as well as, for example, the use of modern nuclear energy and power plants. In this country, we have completely abandoned the promise of safe nuclear energy, due to several near meltdowns that have occurred with old, obsolete technology. In this area, we are quickly overtaken by the Europeans and the Chinese. We have put all our eggs in the electric car basket, without considering the full carbon emissions and how they can be reduced in our civilization as a whole.

Cliff Rieders is a Williamsport board-certified trial attorney and past president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.

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