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Electric Car Subsidies As Handouts For the Rich

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the he-said-it-blame-him dept.

Transportation 589

Atypical Geek writes "Charles Lane, writing for Slate, argues that subsidies for electric cars are an example of 'limousine liberalism' — a lavish gift for well-off Americans to buy expensive cars for the sake of appearing green. From the article: 'How rarefied is the electric-car demographic? When Deloitte Consulting interviewed industry experts and 2,000 potential buyers, it found that from now until 2020, only "young, very high income individuals" — from households making more than $200,000 a year — would even be interested in plug-in hybrids or all-electric cars.' Lane also takes issue with the billions of dollars in subsidies offered to automakers for the manufacture of batteries, arguing that research (warning, PDF) concludes that the money will not help in jump-starting the economies of scale that will drive down prices. At least, not as much or as quickly as the President has argued."

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Yeah... (0)

arthursucks (1148579) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103904)

If more people buy electric cars it might bring the price down. We wouldn't want that!

Re:Yeah... (2, Insightful)

francium de neobie (590783) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103954)

That economies of scale is a red herring argument. Right now electric cars are expensive because the basic technology is expensive - you won't drive down the prices a lot by having a lot of (rich) buyers. The thing really needed is more research, which hopefully will *really* drive down prices.

What if that doesn't work? Well, if you aren't willing to take risks, you wouldn't be able to accomplish anything. A few $B among the US's GDP is almost nothing.

Re:Yeah... (4, Informative)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104160)

The thing really needed is more research, which hopefully will *really* drive down prices.

You mean like the DOE program for battery R&D? Granted it is only a third of a billion per year, but it's not like they're not funding R&D. Besides, if the DOE does it, the car companies won't have to do as much redundant R&D.

Re:Yeah... (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104226)

more research ... or build them in China.

Re:Yeah... (1)

johnhp (1807490) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103964)

Technically, the summary says that the economy of scale factor won't be initiated by the current incentives. I'm with you though. I'm skeptical (without reading TFA) that the suggestion is true.

Handouts for rich LIBERALS (0, Troll)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103922)

These cars make no economic sense because the cost adder for the hybrid/plugin drivetrain never pays for itself in saved fuel compared to a reasonably-priced econono-box like the Mazda3 or Ford Fiesta. Therefore, only wealthy liberals wishing to appear green to their snobby rich liberal social elitist friends will buy these.. It's easy when you don't work for your money and have no sense of value.

Re:Handouts for rich LIBERALS (2, Interesting)

pseudofrog (570061) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104032)

You make two unsupported claims:

1. The Prius is more expensive
2. Only liberals drive Prius

Can you provide a source to either claim? I'm sure I could point out the flaws that lead to those conclusions, but you have to provide a link.

Otherwise, you're just trolling. Lame.

Re:Handouts for rich LIBERALS (0)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104328)

A base-spec Toyota Prius is £19855. A Ford Fiesta 1.4TDCi is £9595. So, yes, the Prius is more expensive. It's also more expensive to service, and at 45mpg is well and truly in gas-guzzler territory.

Not the op, but some figures (2, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104366)

Darn it all, I created a spreadsheet once where I could just punch the figures in and it even did cost of capital calcs, maintenance savings, etc...

Prius is more expensive - $23 - 28k; 51/48 mpg. Call it 50mpg.

Mazda3 4 door - $15k, 29mpg average city/highway
Fiesta - $13k, 34 mpg average

Going by a rather high 15k miles a year, and $4/gallon gasoline(I'm being nice to the hybrid)
Prius - 300 gallons/year, $1200 fuel cost a year.
Mazda3 - 517 gallons, $2069 fuel, $869 more than the Prius
Fiesta - 441, $1765, $565 more than the Prius

Assuming the Cars last 10 years, that's a combined fuel cost of 2.4k/year for the Prius, $1.7k for the Mazda3, $1.5k for the Fiesta.

As for the 'only liberals driving them', I won't go that far, merely stating that you get mostly those who are obsessed with 'green' or those lured by some combination of subsidies, unusual driving patterns excessively canted towards hybrid styles(inner city cab driver?), etc...

Or I could say 'those bad at math'.

Math errors... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104394)

This is what I get for rushing!:

Combined Fuel/simple capital cost:
Prius - $3.5k
Mazda3 - $3.5k
Fiesta - $3.4k

I'll note that if you reduce the anticipated life or assume a 5% loan the maths will change.

Re:Not the op, but some figures (1)

pseudofrog (570061) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104492)

Thanks for crunching the numbers!

My non-rebuttal rebuttal would be that the Prius is better compared to a Camry or Accord, where I'd bet it compares more favorably. But for a fuel-efficient econobox, there are better options than the Prius.

I'd like a turbo-charged 3-cylinder diesel myself :P

Re:Handouts for rich JEWS (5, Insightful)

Iskender (1040286) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104054)

These cars make no economic sense because the cost adder for the hybrid/plugin drivetrain never pays for itself in saved fuel compared to a reasonably-priced econono-box like the Mazda3 or Ford Fiesta. Therefore, only wealthy JEWS wishing to appear green to their snobby rich JEW social elitist friends will buy these.. It's easy when you don't work for your money and have no sense of value.

It's funny how you can just go on and on with any kind of delusions as long as you remember to use the magic "liberal" word. I changed your quote to show that it's the same as classic anti-semitist stuff: just say that they have lots of money, don't have to work, and form strange networks and you don't need to base anything on facts.

Also notice how these "liberals" should buy really small fuel-efficient cars instead, but so-called conservatives can drive whatever they want. Also notice how it is implied that no one "conservative" is ever a slacker born into wealth. After all, that has never happened.

I'm not from the US. Where I'm from, there's no liberal/conservative dichotomy. This means we on average have a better grip on reality. Of course, the article with its "limousine liberal" thing is a huge trollbait in itself, so nothing good will result.

Re:Handouts for rich JEWS (3, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104204)

You ended up supporting the premise of his point by acting as the kind of liberal guy he was mocking. Instead of responding with facts, you used emotional by somehow relating his criticism of the environmentalist movement to that of anti-semitism. There's zero logical leap for that comparison--you're just replacing words and acting as if that's a rebuttal.

You also claim "conservatives can drive whatever they want," which wasn't said. The point is that rich liberals drive these cars, so that was the subject of the post. Conservatives weren't even mentioned. You took it as a personal attack on your ideology, so to respond, you had to bring up conservatives for some reason and draw a bunch of conclusions out of thin air about what you thought was implied by the post.

In fact, you're the one making implication that only conservatives could agree with the post, turning it into a battle of us versus them. You're encouraging the very dichotomy you claim to live away from.

Re:Handouts for rich JEWS (0, Troll)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104216)

You are the one inventing a liberal/conservative dichotomy here. I said nothing of conservatives, so any meaning you interpret from my post along those lines is pure fantasy in your own delusional mind. The only dichotomy I brought up was Liberals vs. Non-Liberals.

Re:Handouts for rich JEWS (3, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104228)

No, the "liberals" being discussed here are the same ones that tell the rest of us that we must make sacrifices, that we must cut back. They expect us to ride the bus, but they won't provide the fundage. They'll just raise taxes. They are as phony as three dollar bills, and no different from the so called "conservatives". They're both top down types who want control. And both use their money to keep it.

I'm not from the US. Where I'm from, there's no liberal/conservative dichotomy.

No? I suppose there's no rich/poor dichotomy either? No social stratification of any kind?

Re:Handouts for rich JEWS (4, Insightful)

ghjm (8918) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104370)

Exactly which liberals told anyone except the very rich to make any sacrifices?

Re:Handouts for rich JEWS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104418)

Erm... his last name is "Straman", or "Strahman" or something like that.

Re:Handouts for rich JEWS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104362)

Where I'm from, there's no liberal/conservative dichotomy

How's the weather on Mars today?
Everywhere with people and money will have a struggle between socialism/capitalism/liberalism/conservatism/fascism and probably a whole bunch of other *isms.

This means we on average have a better grip on reality.

Is it the same reality the rest of the planet lives in?

Re:Handouts for rich LIBERALS (1, Funny)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104146)

Oh, man. You have an excellent point, so prepare to get mod-bombed.

Re:Handouts for rich LIBERALS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104302)

He basically said "liberals are stupid and don't have to work for their money".

Poster will be correctly modded down for being a troll.

Re:Handouts for rich LIBERALS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104428)

So right-wingers give handouts to the rich to help the economy and left-wingers give handouts to the rich to help the environment. It's good to be rich.

This is just stupid (4, Insightful)

francium de neobie (590783) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103926)

The billion dollars are there to drive research for better technology, which hopefully will drive down prices. And when compared to subsidies that other industries get (e.g. the big oils), that few billion dollars is just a drop in the bucket. Look, a few $B may be a lot of money for an individual, but when talking about a whole industry, it's not a lot at all. If anything, it's underfunded.

Re:This is just stupid (4, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103990)

Good point. VCRs and internet access used to only be for those with too much money (my first ISP cost me 80 per month for 80 hours, way back when), but that is what drives the costs down, as you state. Considering the end goal is lower dependence on our "friends" in the middle east, plus a somewhat cleaner environment, seems like a balanced approach to me as well.

Re:This is just stupid (5, Insightful)

elwinc (663074) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104064)

Hear hear!

Somebody (I'm too lazy to find the link today) calculated that Big Oil is getting hundreds of billions of dollars per year in subsidies; here's a related link http://www.economywatch.com/economy-business-and-finance-news/spill-highlights-oil-industry-double-game-re-taxes-and-subsidies-06-07.html [economywatch.com]

I have no qualms with a little of that subsidy being shifted to electric vehicles. If we don't jumpstart the industry, the Chinese certainly will, and it's a damn sight better having production on our shores rather than overseas.

The original article's claim only makes sense if you ignore how economies of scale ramp up and how costs ramp down.

Re:This is just stupid (1)

AEC216 (621410) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104100)

I'm not a fan of the oil subsidies either. Though, if repealed, the oil companies would just pass the additional costs onto the consumers.

Re:This is just stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104182)

Oh my god, then electric cars (with out subsidies themselves) might be more cost effective. But we can just increase subsidies to the electric car manufacturers, that way as much money as possible flows through the US Federal Government, which returns about 50 cents on the dollar after all the money it costs to process the funds.

Re:This is just stupid (4, Insightful)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104184)

Though, if repealed, the oil companies would just pass the additional costs onto the consumers.

Thus increasing the cost effectiveness of hybrids and electrics. It just doesn't make sense to subsidize both.

Re:This is just stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104236)

Uh, and then consumers and businesses would be paying closer to the real cost of oil and derivatives, so the entire economy would have incentive to use less / use alternatives? I am having trouble finding issue with this. Especially if the increased prices are gradual and announced far in advance (to allow businesses to plan).

Re:This is just stupid (5, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104282)

Though, if repealed, the oil companies would just pass the additional costs onto the consumers.

Yeah? So? Let them do it and price themselves right out of the market. The subsidies are designed to keep the public dependent on fossil fuels. If they actually had to compete with alternatives, those alternatives would get a foothold.

Re:This is just stupid (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104458)

Where do you think the money to fund the subsidies comes from? Oh, yeah, that's right, taxpayers. Those are the very same consumers who'd bear the additional costs. Either way, they're the ones getting fucked over.

Re:This is just stupid (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104396)

I might be just skeptical, but I wonder if the presence or not, of economies of scale on the new batteries is not related on how short term the subsidies are...

Ideology aside, it makes little sense to build a huge plant that will be cost effective while the product is subsidized, but operate at a loss when the subsidy is removed. (Although, usually, it's a few years after the building of a plant that you amortize a cost, let's just use this as a thought experiment for now, just to keep away from the ideology thing)

'limousine liberalism' (-1, Flamebait)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103940)

Did anyone in their right mind ever think this was anything else?

Electric cars make no economic sense at this time, which is why we don't drive them.

Re:'limousine liberalism' (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104058)

Electric cars make no economic sense at this time, which is why we don't drive them.

Electric cars would make economic sense in a truly free market. Unfortunately, the market is quite distorted.

There are huge externalities with fossil-fuel vehicles—air pollution, climate change,oil spills, etc. These are effectively subsidized by everyone, lowering their price far below what it should be.

Re:'limousine liberalism' (-1, Flamebait)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104158)

There are huge externalities with fossil-fuel vehicles—air pollution, climate change,oil spills, etc. These are effectively subsidized by everyone, lowering their price far below what it should be.

Ah, like the 'environmental catastrophe' the Greenists were predicting in the Gulf?

Re:'limousine liberalism' (0, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104224)

[citation needed]

Re:'limousine liberalism' (3, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104060)

"Electric cars make no economic sense at this time, which is why we don't drive them."

They would make a lot more financial sense if the government would stop subsidizing the oil industry so heavily. But hey, since when have Fox News neocons been interested in facts?

Re:'limousine liberalism' (-1, Flamebait)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104144)

They would make a lot more financial sense if the government would stop subsidizing the oil industry so heavily.

And exactly where does the government 'heavily subsidise' the EVIL OIL COMPANIES?

If anything its seems to be going out of its way to increase costs for the EVIL OIL COMPANIES by pushing stupid regulations and by stirring up wars in the Middle East which are probably the greatest threat to the world's oil supplies right now.

Re:'limousine liberalism' (2, Informative)

DogDude (805747) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104202)

"And exactly where does the government 'heavily subsidise' the EVIL OIL COMPANIES?"

Google is your friend!

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/25/nation/la-na-oil-spill-subsidies-20100525 [latimes.com]

Why did you think that we pay less than $3/gallon for gas and Europeans pay $7-$8.

Re:'limousine liberalism' (2, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104240)

Why did you think that we pay less than $3/gallon for gas and Europeans pay $7-$8.

Because Europeans impose massive taxes on fuel. Presumably because they hate poor people.

Re:'limousine liberalism' (5, Interesting)

Calibax (151875) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104308)

My first CD writer cost $45,000(!) and came in a rack with its own PC - and the blank disks were $60 each when bought in quantities of at least 100. Clearly this isn't going to catch on.

My first home network connection was a 110 baud acoustic coupler that cost $250. 6 months later I upgraded to a 300 baud modem that cost the same amount. It takes an hour to download a 10KB file from my local BBS. And they call this an improvement?

My first Windows mouse cost $220 including the board that you needed to run it in a PC. Damn, this will NEVER, EVER catch on.

And that double speed NEC CD reader that I bought for $450 was a real bargain.

Oh, and I remember when RAM switched from core to semiconductor memory, and the price came down to a million bucks per megabyte. We thought we were in heaven when our company bought 3 systems with 2 megabytes each.

I can come up with many, many more examples of costs that have dropped incredibly over time. I don't know if electric cars are in that category, but I think there's an excellent chance that they are.

Money spent on R & D is not money wasted. Yes, you have to be certain that there's a real chance of success, but if you wait until that chance is 100% then someone else will have already done it.

Re:'limousine liberalism' (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104482)

Sorry, but you're looking through the wrong end of a municipal drainpipe.

Printed books made no "economic sense" in your terms at the time Gutenberg was producing them, because only the rich could afford them (or those with Church subsidies). But once the genie was out of the bottle, others started doing them and the price fell. No new invention ever makes economic sense at too early a stage, but some people clearly think that giving it a kick-start will help.

Unfortunately, for reasons I've already explained elsewhere [slashdot.org] , it won't work until there is an acceptable range of standard battery sizes/shapes, and a way of exchanging them, equivalent to the price/range of a tank of gas.

--
And no, ceoyoyo [slashdot.org] , where I live no-one keeps their propane tank and refills it: you swap it for a full one and pay the price of the fill.

And yes, Bobartig [slashdot.org] , I do mean exactly what you describe: you're not thinking anywhere near far enough ahead. Battery needs to be equivalent to a tank of gas, and that includes weight and size as well as price and range.

And? (1, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103942)

This seems very obvious. Electric cars will begin to dominate the market when they make economic sense for the majority of the market. Obviously, that time isn't here yet, and attempts by the government to manipulate the market by dumping money into rebates won't be sufficient to make the difference.

Honestly, I think the government has very little role to play here; but if it does, it's in ensuring that the cost of gasoline isn't kept artificially low, making sure the infrastructure can support electric cars, and help setting standards. They can't just force the market, not without hurting the market.

Re:And? (1)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103978)

They can't just force the market, not without hurting the market.

Well, say electric cars cost $70,000 if you make a limited run of a few hundred cars. Nobody will buy it for $70k.

But if you can sell a few thousand, the per-unit cost can get down to $35,000? Now people can afford it and the market takes off.

The initial investment to get it off the ground may be too high for failing American auto makers to assume, requiring the government to step in.

Re:And? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104062)

Nobody will buy it for $70k.

But if you can sell a few thousand, the per-unit cost can get down to $35,000? Now people can afford it and the market takes off.

The Volt is supposed to be below $35k with subidies.

But if you're that concerned about gas prices, why would you buy a Volt for $35k rather than a Civic or Fiesta for $20k?

Re:And? (2, Insightful)

Jmanamj (1077749) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104198)

Thats precisely the point toonol was trying to show as erroneous. Even if the government brings the price of the cars down to $10,000 a piece, and people are fighting for the few thousand cars in the production run, the technology wont take off because the technology is not ready, and the infrastructure isn't in place to keep the price at $10,000. The only way to keep it there is if the government continues to spend money on subsidies.

Re:And? (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104102)

"Honestly, I think the government has very little role to play here; but if it does, it's in ensuring that the cost of gasoline isn't kept artificially low, making sure the infrastructure can support electric cars, and help setting standards. They can't just force the market, not without hurting the market."

They're already keeping the cost of gasoline artificially low via subsidies. If they stopped subsidizing the oil companies tomorrow, the price of gas would shoot up to more realistic levels, which would probably be closer to $7/gallon. Presto! The electric car is suddenly economically viable.

Not our fault (1)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103944)

Maybe if they would put out an attractive offering then consumers would be interested. Why would somebody outside of the >200k bracket buy a electric car when buying a normal car and gasoline is vastly less expensive?

Normally I would be sympathetic to the idea of forcing market expansion to get a new process off the ground, but we're way off from a viable electric car, and until then it's just going to be a waste of money.

This is why I'm never a fan of 'rebates'. (5, Interesting)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103952)

Rebates are stupid. It's the most regressive tax spending possible. If I can afford a large portion of something, I get the rest for free? If I can't afford that much, I get nothing? Um, something is wrong here.

If the government wants to encourage electric cars, why doesn't it buy them? Switch the entire damn postal service over to start with. Give grants for local comunity to switch their police cars and mass transit over.

Re:This is why I'm never a fan of 'rebates'. (0)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103992)

If the government wants to encourage electric cars, why doesn't it buy them? Switch the entire damn postal service over to start with. Give grants for local comunity to switch their police cars and mass transit over.

That wouldn't be a bad idea, except that when Foobar Electric Cars Inc realised that the government was coming to buy a few million from them they'd rub their hands in glee and double the price.

Re:This is why I'm never a fan of 'rebates'. (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104084)

That wouldn't be a bad idea, except that when Foobar Electric Cars Inc realised that the government was coming to buy a few million from them they'd rub their hands in glee and double the price.

These rebates are just price supports anyway. Same thing happened with $8K rebate for buying a house - pricing dropped precipitously in the 2-3 weeks after it finally expired.

Re:This is why I'm never a fan of 'rebates'. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104272)

What if you make a law that says:

"The government will buy X number of clean cars for a total of Y dollars from the first maker that can deliver such cars at rate Z.

The government will also buy cars from any subsequent makers that meet certain harsher requirements."

Now, Foobar Ink has to make cars that they can sell for Y/X dollars per vehicle. If someone beats them to that they have to improve their design and lower their prices until they have a good enough deal.

Re:This is why I'm never a fan of 'rebates'. (5, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104188)

New York city is actually doing just that. Working with cab companies to replace their fleets of 12 mpg crown vics with high efficiency and hybrid vehicles.

I'm slightly skeptical on this research as well on three fronts:

1) A fully loaded Prius with range extender batteries (allowing for full electric 30-50 miles depending on kit) comes in at right about $31k. The new Volt comes in at $41k. But the Volt has a $7500 federal rebate and some states are putting up another $1-4k rebate. Which puts it's price right in line with the Prius. You don't have to been in the $200k/year income bracket to be interested in that.

2) I am very interested in the full electric, the only reason why I haven't persued it is because I commute 40+ miles on interstate/highways twice a day. Full electric is unbeatable for surface street driving, but up on the interstate, Diesel is king. There's no way a Prius/Volt will recoup the savings when compared to a VW TDI pushing 50+ MPG on the highway. And I am noooooo where close to $200k/year. Heck, many of my friends have also stated their interest. To the point where a few folks have been pestering me to convert the old Fiero to full electric. There is significant interest in the electric market from the $100k/year bracket. There would be even more if they could get the market price down to $25k.

3) A full electric can easily out perform and present a ROI in the life of the car over econoboxes when driving to their strengths. Again, up on the highway, electric isn't going to be all that great, but if you do nothing but stop and go commutes for short ranges every day, the full electric is going to pay off big time over even a decent mpg econobox.

-Rick

Re:This is why I'm never a fan of 'rebates'. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104338)

Over 20% of the USPS fleet are already alternative fuel vehicles (though not all electric). They went through a pile of segways and various other 'alternative' vehicles as well - actually they had some of the oldest electric vehicles. The buses here are natural gas (public, college and most of the lower school ones), and one of the bus stations has the largest solar panel installation in the state to power it.

It's not all of them, but the government does adopt this sort of tech frequently.

Re:This is why I'm never a fan of 'rebates'. (3, Interesting)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104386)

If the government wants to encourage electric cars, why doesn't it just force us to buy them?

There, corrected that for you.

Re:This is why I'm never a fan of 'rebates'. (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104444)

Good point. Unfortunately, I think there's some kind of weird bias that "government spending" = "bad" and "communist", while giving tax breaks and subsidies are supposed to be good because it "harnesses market forces" and is therefore "capitalist".

Aside from not really being a sensible distinction (tax breaks and subsidies are both forms of government spending), there are lots of opportunities for perverse incentives. Plus, as you point out, it tends to give money to people who already have money while neglecting those who don't. You effectively get governmental redistribution of wealth, but it's about taking from the middle class and giving to the rich.

News at eleven (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33103962)

Old people set in their ways and people currently happily burning gas not interested in changing their ways, or experimenting. Chocking news.

Captcha; Amateurs - made this survey

oh, it's timothy (0, Offtopic)

ubermenschen (463170) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103970)

Should I be surprised that I can tell who posted an article based solely on the tone of the title and included text?

Re:oh, it's timothy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104106)

No, you shouldn't

Re:oh, it's timothy (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104246)

Perhaps you should respond to the article instead of attacking the messenger if you disagree with its point.

Not out of the ordinary. (5, Insightful)

Berkyjay (1225604) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103984)

Most new technologies end up in the hands of the rich first, mainly because of the costs of production. Over time, if the technology ends up proving itself and becomes cheaper to produce, it starts to permeate itself into the rest of the market, it's just simple economics. Just look at the PC, most families couldn't afford one until well into the late 90's.

Electric cars work if they're small (3, Interesting)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103988)

You can retrofit an old Volkswagen bug to be all electric for less than $7000 [e-volks.com] . I don't see what the big push is for the added complexity of a hybrid gasoline/electric engine if you only need one to go more than 60 miles on a trip. Electric vehicles shouldn't be SUV-sized. For the few times you need an SUV or need to go on a long trip, the world's petroleum supply should be enough. It would be nice to see all-electric vehicles for less than $10,000 someday, because the technology is there to do it.

Re:Electric cars work if they're small (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104086)

I don't want to pay insurance and registration on two vehicles when one will do the job. I'm not going to buy a 60 mile limited electric when a gas vehicle will go 60mi or 600mi.

Re:Electric cars work if they're small (3, Interesting)

WeatherGod (1726770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104214)

Well, if the 60+ mile trip is rare enough, then rent the gas powered car as needed. If you make 60+ mile trips often enough, then an electric car doesn't make sense for you (yet). Just like anything else in life, use the tool that fits the job.

Re:Electric cars work if they're small (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104426)

I wouldn't say "per trip" is sufficient though. For example, my commute is 38 miles. But there is no place to charge or swap batteries there at work. So I also have to drive back. Round trip effectively kills the all electric option for me until it can handle a full "day" of driving. To work, back from work, to soccer practice, to music practice, and pickup from music (possibly dinner). By that time we are talking more like 100 miles - all with no real chance to charge in between.

Re:Electric cars work if they're small (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104120)

You can retrofit an old Volkswagen bug to be all electric for less than $7000 [e-volks.com] . I don't see what the big push is for the added complexity of a hybrid gasoline/electric engine if you only need one to go more than 60 miles on a trip.

Because you make trips greater than 60 miles.

Re:Electric cars work if they're small (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104200)

Because you make trips greater than 60 miles.

Indeed. The only people I've seen driving a Prius around here are taxi drivers, and, uh, they need to travel more than 60 miles a day between refuelling.

If electric cars were capable of being used as taxis they probably would have taken off by now; but their tiny range and slow recharging ensures they can't work in that market.

Build it... and they will come. (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 4 years ago | (#33103994)

When they can make a pure electric vehicle that can go maybe 400 or 500 miles on a full charge, and is possible to recharge to 80% capacity or better in under 5 minutes, and can do respectable highway speeds for a few hours at a time, as long as there was also some sort of infrastructure similar to existing stations where a person could pay a fee to recharge their vehicle, I think that the mass production that would be necessary to meet the demand for such cars would inevitably drive prices down... Gas powered cars would become the exception and not the rule.

Re:Build it... and they will come. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104306)

> 400 or 500 miles on a full charge
> 80% capacity or better in under 5 minutes
Neither of which are actually necessary for the vast majority of people. Sure, some people will need these, like some people need 18-wheel trucks. But that doesn't mean that the bulk of the market does.

IMO, a large part of the reason to force the market is to get people to view electric vehicles as a reality rather than a theoretical concept. I.e. consider not how electric compares to petrol/diesel, but how it actually matches up to their needs.

Re:Build it... and they will come. (1)

suburbanmediocrity (810207) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104404)

Is that even possible? Fuel:battery energy density ratios with efficiency added in are in the neighborhood of 50-100:1.

Those are strong words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33103998)

only "young, very high income individuals" — from households making more than $200,000 a year — would even be interested in plug-in hybrids or all-electric cars.

Those are strong words, especially with the drastic difference between interest in a product and the ability to purchase it.

If I could afford to purchase or finance a new car, an electric would probably be preferable at any equivalent price...

Not to sure about that.... (4, Interesting)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104008)

I don't know where they are getting their demographics from, but I have many examples where they are wrong.

My first Prius was purchased around 2003 and was the older model. I was not super high income at the time (100k per year). Cost came in around 26k I think and I was paying $400 per month for it. I would think any car with a price point below 30k is not being marketed to the young and rich.

I sold my first Prius to a gentleman from Southern California who was an appraiser. He most certainly did not seem young or rich either, but needed it for the lower operating costs due to the high mileage he was going to put on it.

Now, I did purchase a Hybrid Highlander with a price tag of around 50k about 3 years afterwards. A luxury purchase to be sure, but once again, I did not represent anywhere near 200k per year in income when I made that decision. I just wanted my SUV back while also reducing my consumption of oil.

In addition to my own personal experiences, I know at least a dozen other hybrid owners personally. With one or two exceptions, none of them are exceeding 200k per year (even with combined incomes).

Just ordinary working professionals. So I would say out of the 15 or so hybrid owners that I know of, maybe 10-15% meet the articles assumptions about hybrid car purchasers, or plug in hybrids.

I realize the article is not talking about hybrids, but pure electric, but the Toyota model is only 35k from what I have heard. Far from a Tesla, or some other luxury hybrid or electric (such as the Hybrid Highlander I owned).

Sounds to me like this article is creating an issue that does not exist to attack "limousine liberalism". I will tell you this... it's about fucking time there was some subsidies for electric/hybrid cars in price ranges below 50k. Unless we just want to forget the nearly $1 billion dollar subsidies for the Hummer?

Re:Not to sure about that.... (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104230)

I don't know about you, but most people I know would not consider 100k as "not super high income". You individually were making roughly double the median household income for the US in 2003.

Re:Not to sure about that.... (2, Informative)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104278)

I did not write 100k "exactly" though. What I wrote was "less than" 100k, but Slashdot stripped out the symbol. My income at that time was much closer to the median household income for 2003, trust me.

Re:Not to sure about that.... (2, Informative)

Urkki (668283) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104358)

I don't know about you, but most people I know would not consider 100k as "not super high income". You individually were making roughly double the median household income for the US in 2003.

Be that as it may, the summary specificlally talks about those making over 200k.

Re:Not to sure about that.... (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104326)

Similar here. The tax credits/deductions made buying my car (Civic Hybrid) about the same price as a non-hybrid model. It's difficult for me to see the argument that at ~$24k it's a rich liberal's car. I'm certainly not rich, although I definitely make above the average. (At the time, I was a graduate student, so you can imagine how not-rich I was.)

Electric cars are currently different, they're pricier so far from what I've seen. But the best way to bring the price down is to make them a better investment to produce in bulk, I'm reasonable certain.

Re:Not to sure about that.... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104414)

So I would say out of the 15 or so hybrid owners that I know of, maybe 10-15% meet the articles assumptions about hybrid car purchasers, or plug in hybrids.

Sampling bias much?

Unfair to 100K wage earners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104020)

The problem is that too few people can benefit from these incentives as they are currently defined. Clearly we need to help out those earning only 100K as well. Up the rebates!

The wealthy and educated will always find ways to game altruistic systems. After all, who is in a better position to do it?

They said the same about hybrids (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104024)

This speculative bullcrap will be put to bed a week after sales start. There is so much pent-up demand for ditching gas, this will all seem like nothing more than desperate Chevron/Exxon/Conoco/BP propaganda.

But the Chinese BYD F3DM [3.ly] will eat the Volt's lunch, costing half as much with a longer all-electric range and batteries which can charge half full in 10 minutes if your house mains can handle the current.

The real tragedy is overpriced sports card like the Tesla which unlike the Volt, are actually priced beyond most consumers' means.

We tried this in Europe (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104028)

Each country tailored the rules so that people would buy as many indigenous cars as possible. And yes, the customers are upper middle income and above.

It is a "please buy indigenous cars-and-congratulations to you -- you're above upper middle income-subsidy", not a green car-subsidy.

Demographic comparison (1)

ezratrumpet (937206) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104034)

Just to clarify - appearing green to most people is much, much more important than actually being green.
There are people living utterly sustainable lifestyle with very little societal support.
News Flash: that sort of lifestyle is more than a full-time job for an entire family.

Study done with crystal ball and star charts. (4, Insightful)

Posting=!Working (197779) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104044)

When Deloitte Consulting interviewed industry experts and 2,000 potential buyers, it found that from now until 2020, only "young, very high income individuals"--those from households making more than $200,000 a year--would even be interested in plug-in hybrids or all-electric cars.

They're claiming to be able to predict vehicle buying patterns 10 years in advance, not just the technology, but the income level of customers who will buy cars that won't even be on the drawing board for 5 more years.

Then it recommends diverting the flow of money spent trying to improve EV's into improving gasoline powered vehicles. Wow, that solves all our problems!

Taxing Nerves (1)

WarpedCore (1255156) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104050)

The Nissan Leaf is scheduled to debut with the price tag of around $32,000. I wouldn't call it cheap but I wouldn't call it a prohibitive luxury good. With federal and state tax subsidies, it makes it cheaper and a working incentive to go electric. It's a long way to go as far as infrastructure. Tesla Roaders shouldn't really get an incentive tax credit. It'd be like the government giving tax breaks for MacBook Pros. I think that electric cars today are more of a statement than a solution.

Re:Taxing Nerves (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104090)

The Nissan Leaf is scheduled to debut with the price tag of around $32,000. I wouldn't call it cheap but I wouldn't call it a prohibitive luxury good. With federal and state tax subsidies, it makes it cheaper and a working incentive to go electric

Meanwhile a Civic will cost you around $20k and can drive more than 100 miles without waiting hours to refuel.

Even if you don't need to travel long distances, $12k will buy you a lot of gas.

Re:Taxing Nerves (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104392)

The Nissan Leaf is scheduled to debut with the price tag of around $32,000. I wouldn't call it cheap but I wouldn't call it a prohibitive luxury good. With federal and state tax subsidies, it makes it cheaper and a working incentive to go electric

Meanwhile a Civic will cost you around $20k and can drive more than 100 miles without waiting hours to refuel.

Even if you don't need to travel long distances, $12k will buy you a lot of gas.

Lets run some number. At $4 a gallon, $12,000 will by you 3000 gallons. At 30 miles per gallon that will get you 90,000 miles. So you will need to drive a Nissan Leaf for 90,000 miles to break even and that's not including the cost of electricity to recharge it, the cost to replace the batteries after they lose their capacity or the cost of rental cars when you need to make trips beyond the 100 mile range of the leaf.

Re:Taxing Nerves (2, Informative)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104398)

If we go to all electric cars or mostly electric cars get ready for toll roads everywhere. Right now it's the tax on fuel that pays for roads (well at least is *supposed* to pay for roads, whether it does or just goes into the general funds is a debate for another day). As soon as people stop buying gas and diesel, they government(s) (state and federal) will be crying fowl and we'll see some sort of black box required on electric cars to see how many miles you drive and sending you a "road use" tax bill at the end of the year. Either that electronic tags on the windshields with passive sensors over the road like current toll booths.

Both solutions have that great added feature of tracking. And it won't take long for there to be automatic "speeding" tickets issues as an excuse for local governments to make an extra buck in the name "Public safety".

Handouts to oil companies? Hello? (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104124)

This article is really, truly stupid. The US government keeps oil prices artificially low by pumping subsidizes and tax breaks to oil companies already. The only reason that electric cars aren't economically viable is because the government already gives massive, massive handouts to already massively profitable oil companies. If the US gov't quit subsidizing those crooks, then they wouldn't need to subsidize electric vehicles.

Young and High Income??? (1)

vanyel (28049) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104130)

Apparently they didn't actually *look* at real EV drivers. I suggest they go to some EV group meetings, and not look at just Tesla drivers. If only I were young again, or *ever* made even half of $200K... Not that I'm a big fan of subsidies, even when they benefit me, but they probably are helping to kickstart a market that is finally starting to become viable...

Gotta Start Somewhere (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104162)

R&D costs money. Looking at computers, the first ones were so expensive only governments or rich companies could use them.

Why not sell to the rich? They're buying, and cars depreciate like crazy so in a few years a poor schmuck could buy used. With all the problems that early models have, the whole system of maintaining these cars costs so much that the industry will not set up en masse to sell to the masses. They will get their feet wet with a few toys for the rich and find out what it takes to move into the economies of scale.

Re:Gotta Start Somewhere (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104462)

Yeah... no. You're not going to sell your electric car a few years later for anywhere NEAR a fair price, because *batteries wear out*. It's several thousand dollars to replace the batteries in an electric car. Several thousand more than an internal combustion car of the same model year costs, more than likely -- unless you're selling it 2-3 years later, in which case it's probably not, but that just means that in a very few years' time the new owner will have to plop down about as much as they paid for the car to get new batteries.

You're not going to get an electric car and run it for 150,000 - 250,000 miles with minimal upkeep costs. Fact is the batteries slowly die, just like your laptop's batteries, and BOY are they pricey. You think a new transmission is expensive? Fixing a cracked head? OOooooohh that's nothing.

disagree... (1)

supernova87a (532540) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104210)

This is one issue on which I have to disagree, be unpopular, and say that these kinds of subsidies are necessary. If we leave everything to the cheapest and most affordable existing technology (so that the poor could afford it), we will never get out of being slaves to oil. Having energy/vehicles too cheaply is what is keeping us in all this mess.

In this sense, poor people are the problem (in the sense that most of us non-rich people use gasoline vehicles). Sometimes improving things comes with an upfront cost. And of course rich people buy new technology first. duh.

Re:disagree... (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104412)

If we leave everything to the cheapest and most affordable existing technology (so that the poor could afford it), we will never get out of being slaves to oil. Having energy/vehicles too cheaply is what is keeping us in all this mess.

No. The "problem" is that gasoline is superior to other energy sources. For example, as pointed out in the article, the specific energy of batteries (energy per kilogram of weight) is only 1% of the specific energy of gasoline. Until another energy source is developed that is comparable to gasoline then the use of gasoline/diesel burning vehicles will continue.

Where were the whiners? (4, Interesting)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104250)

So I am curious, did Charles Lane have a whining rant to publish in 2002 when Bush signed off on a $30,000 tax credit for monster trucks? [usatoday.com]

Re:Where were the whiners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104364)

Of course not. Monster trucks are vital to the everyday lives of Real Americans rather than dirty hippies.

Re:Where were the whiners? (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104402)

Well, I agree that it was a bad idea, and most conservatives should (and many did). But, keep in mind, that was an unanticipated consequence of an attempt to give businesses a tax break for complying with American with Disabilities Act... that nugget of information is rarely mentioned.

Price of hybrids includes rebates (4, Interesting)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104274)

And by that, I mean that when the government offers a $5K rebate on something, whomever is selling that something raises the price by $5K. The consumer doesn't actually get that money. Whenever the government artificially increases the demand for something, the supply artificially shrinks and drives up the price by a corresponding amount.

This is why college costs $35-50K/year now - there's so much cheap government money to pay for it that natural market forces have made it all but impossible to afford except for either the very wealthy or the very poor who qualify for the government money.

Those of us stuck in the middle end up graduating with a "second mortgage."

False premises, I call bullshit. (1)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104334)

I am champing at the bit for either a plug-in hibred or an all electric car. I am 45 and I don't make 200,000 a year by a long shot.

Statistic fail by partisan bullshit "research group".

Plus, in every industry, the first fruits are expensive and generally sold to the more well off. Remember when microwave ovens cost thousands of dollars?

It's called the economy of scale.

And even as this "research" is coming out, one major U.S. manufacturer has increased their 2012 production quotas by half because of existing demand.

just another case of us being lied to using unfounded statistics.

Similar policy seems to be working in Japan though (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 4 years ago | (#33104354)

While I am too lazy to go lookup stats ATM (just out of bed, and no coffee yet), there has been an obvious increase of Primuses and other hybrid cars since the "eco" tax rebates and subsidies have started there (the subsidies are, I think, about to expire in a month or two).

If the memory serves, the Prius has been a top selling car for two years, and the second and third place are also for hybrids - the shift to "eco" cars is quite massive (it is a different question how "eco" those are, but anyway).

Being massive, it isn't limited to "the rich" - several friends and neighbors that definitely aren't in the category have changed their cars to an "eco" vehicle because of the program.

Besides, what's the problem anyway? Considering that EVs are still a very new category (a first-gen product so to speak), there are very few offerings (compared to gas/diesel), it is normal that mostly people with more disposable income will try it out.

At this stage, a subsidy may actually have a larger effect than sometime later at a point where you'd have a sizable market (of "poor" customers) with a lot of competition.

So, again, where's the problem?

Handouts for the rich? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33104356)

Isn't that the purpose of government? To tax everyone and then to give back to the people who pay your campaign finances?

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