Not Holding One’s Breath For All-Electric Vehicles
In mid-July, the Premier of Ontario announced that his government would provide up to $10,000 in subsidies to people who decide to purchase an electric vehicle. The idea behind the subsidy is to have ...
In mid-July, the Premier of Ontario announced that his government would provide up to $10,000 in subsidies to people who decide to purchase an electric vehicle. The idea behind the subsidy is to have plug-in or electric vehicles making up some 20 per cent of all the vehicles on Ontario roads by 2020.
While many complained about this move, in reality, the Ontario government was only following the path set earlier by the U. S. government where American consumers are now offered US$7,500 towards the purchase of alternative propulsion vehicles. In Europe, the German government has in place a scrappage program, giving people a substantial refund if they abandon their older cars and buy a new, more fuel-efficient one. New car sales in Germany have increased as a result.
I’m not going to enter into a debate on the merits of this approach (as I only have some 500 words to work with and I’ve already used up 162). I will only again say that the Ontario Premier is following the path set out by others; and the fact that the provincial government has invested heavily in the domestic auto industry, along with the federal government.
There is another reason for this move on the part of the Ontario and U. S. governments: the shift to electric vehicles is not going to be easy. Right now, the most successful new car technology is the gasoline-electric hybrid; and the technology is improving.
Plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles are certainly, in terms of technological progress, the next logical step. It is more efficient and clean, but still a ways off. The General Motors Volt is still not available, although it should be coming soon. Only then can we see if the hype surrounding its development was well worth the wait. There are other hurdles as well. The battery technology needed to extend the range of these all-electric vehicles has a way to go before it can offer the range and reliability of even the most inexpensive gasoline-only powered cars. There is a lot of talk about a battery breakthrough, with ZENN Motor Company proclaiming it is on the verge of one with EEstor, a battery maker start-up in Texas. At this time, nothing has appeared and there is a great deal of skepticism in the scientific and engineering community about EEstor’s claims for its still unseen and untested EESU technology.
This Ontario subsidy, and the one in the United States, is largely an effort to help the all-electric technologies survive by getting consumers to become early adopters. The makers of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles are complaining about the move, as car buyers don’t get a monetary break for buying their vehicles. But they may not have to worry too much. As a commercial enterprise, all-electric cars have, as of right now, a greater chance of failure than success.