The View From Here – In spite of the fanfare, the electric car still appears like a non-starter

Tom Henihan

Everyone loves a new car and to get a new kind of new car is especially exciting and showy.

So why are electric cars, although hyped beyond measure and extravagantly subsidized, still so rare they seem little more than a figment of our collective imagination?

To date, in spite of governments’ and the media’s frenzy about this game changing innovation almost no one is driving this godsend of a machine.

According to a recent article in the Financial Post, electric vehicles make up only two-tenths of a per cent of all passenger vehicles in North America and just about one per cent of personal vehicles in Britain, France, and Germany.

There is nothing new about an electric motor; the challenges with the electric engine have always been its viability.

Rechargeable power tools age quickly and they do not age well. Once they begin losing torque and momentum, things go downhill quickly.

The perception is that electric cars pose similar problems. With a tank of gas, you know where you stand; with a full charge in a battery-powered car, you are prone to the capriciousness of electricity, such as its response to differing terrain, temperature, thunderstorms and so on.

In provinces that burn fossil fuel to produce electricity, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan the environmental benefit of electric cars is negligible, if in fact there are any environmental gains at all.

Of course, when an industry hooks its wagon to the environmental crusade, their merchandise can sell itself, at least to devout, green-minded governments like Quebec and Ontario.

In the province of Quebec, buyers of electric vehicles get a $7,000 rebate and in Ontario, the rebate is from $6,000 to $14,000 for Tesla buyers.

Incidentally, Tesla, even with its new Model 3 coming off the line, lost $12 billion in market value a couple of weeks ago and the Model 3 has attracted little more than indifference from the consumer.

Considering that electric cars are expensive, it is reasonable to assume that only those who are well off can afford to buy them.
Giving thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to rich, environmentally friendly types, to tool around town in electric cars is not just excessive it is unjust.

Besides, if electric cars are just a niche market for the well heeled, this seriously diminishes the environmental benefits of the entire electric car campaign.

It is a bit like the ethanol biofuel craze in the early 2000’s, which was also supposed to be a panacea for many of our environmental concerns. The most memorable outcome of the ethanol initiative was an increase in food prices.

Yet, the Canadian Government invested heavily and promoted the concept so vehemently it couldn’t turn back or admit the entire project was, from an environmental standpoint, little more than a token gesture and a waste of time and money.

Rushing to support an industry that is still in the developmental stages and offering incentives to consumers is at best premature.

However, in a desperate bid to appear at the vanguard of environmental stewardship, governments are doggedly chasing electric cars, though the entire enterprise seems to lacks any real substance.

Like the hula-hoop or fidget spinner, the electric car looks like a fad that will fade out and become a relic, a collector’s item, a novelty vehicle driven by enthusiasts at specialty car events where environmental issues are the least of anyone’s concerns.

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