August 01, 2010

The EVs are Coming

The past few days witnessed a bit of debate on electric vehicles and related policies after the president swung by Detroit and appeared behind the wheel of a Volt, and GM increased its estimate of the number of EVs it would produce in 2012 from 30,000 to 45,000. The Washington Post’s Charles Lane ran pretty much the same critiques as an editorial in the Post and an opinion piece in Slate (the former owns the later). The gist is this: a Deloitte study identified that the upper classes only will be the early adopters of EVs, so tax breaks for EVs constitute a just-plain-wrong tax break for the rich. I don’t disagree that this is the demographic most likely to take advantage of the tax incentive, but I do think it misses the point. The goal of this particular policy is to pull along new energy technological development, and it should therefore be judged by 2 basic questions: is it one of the most effective and clear-cut ways to accomplish that goal; and does it produce intolerable negative side effects? On both counts I think this tax incentive does just fine, at least for the near term. If Lane is correct and relatively few people purchase EVs anyways, then the better focus of cutting government tax breaks and incentives solely for budget purposes would be on the larger pools (think maybe the oil industry?) than the small, individual-consumer-based chunks of change.

Noticing this twin push against EV tax breaks, I did a Google news search on it and most of what I found indicated a far more positive outlook than the Post/Slate pieces. To get beyond just the knock on the tax incentive, check out CNET’s video test-drive of the Nissan Leaf, and its photo slideshow on EV charging infrastructure. Because, you know, CNET rules. And if, like me, you think our heavy petroleum usage is a major security problem, it’s worth taking time now and again to watch where EV technology is heading.

(Obama also did his weekly address from this Detroit visit, embedded here courtesy of the White House.)