A Skeptical Engineer

Can the government force feed us electric cars?

Despite the government’s thumb on the scale with its rebates of $2,500 to $7,000 to buyers of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, sales of  those vehicles hasn’t exactly gone through the roof. In fact, Honda sold only 83 of its all-electric Fit this year, and sales of GM’s Volt are still struggling despite a $5,000 cut in its base price. Meanwhile, the U.S. is on track to spend $7.5 billion on the rebates by 2019 with no effect on gas use or emissions, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office . I’m sure taxpayers are simply delighted to have money taken from their paychecks and given to those who buy these government blessed cars.

The situation should get even more interesting (or depressing) when 2025 gets closer. That’s when 15% of the cars any auto company sells in California and nine other states must be all-electric. But even though Californians buy more electric and hybrid vehicles than any other state, the total sales of those cars and trucks don’t make up anywhere close to 15% of overall sales. So what will those states do if the car-buying public doesn’t go along with their well-meaning plans? Can they force us to buy cars we don’t want?

A lot can happen in the 12 years until the deadline, and deadlines have been known to be extended or ignored (ala Obamacare). We might all be driving natural-gas powered cars by then, or riding high-speed rail. Or maybe California and its followers will get lucky and battery technology will make one or two quantum leaps ahead, fusion technology or thorium reactors will finally make electricity too cheap to meter, and electric cars and trucks and motorcycles will be selling like hotcakes. Another possibility, equally unlikely, is that car companies quit selling cars in states with crazy mandates.

Here’s another look at the topic.

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