US government faces criticism over preference for electric vehicles

Article by Anita Panait, on October 9, 2012

The Obama administration has been criticized for favouring electric vehicles as a solution to the problems of global warming and for the continued reliance of the United States on foreign oil. The current administration has been urged not to focus on technologies like EVs, but to concentrate on achieving the desired results – which are lower fuel consumption and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

The issue now is why the administration does not see other technologies like fuel cell EVs, improved combustion engine vehicles and compressed natural gas units as viable solutions to the problems the US is currently facing. Here is comparison of an ordinary yet advanced gasoline-powered unit and an electric vehicle.

The starting version of the Hyundai Elantra costs around $17,590, including shipping. It received EPA fuel economy ratings of 29 mpg for city driving, 40 mpg for highway driving and 33 mpg combined. According to fueleconomy.gov, annual fuel costs for the base Hyundai Elantra amount to $1,750. The base version of the Nissan Leaf, meanwhile, costs around $36,050, including shipping.

Minus the federal tax credit of $7,500, a buyer should spend only around $28,550. Leaf’s economy equivalents are 106 mpg-e for city driving, 92 mpg for highway driving and 99 mpg combined. According to fueleconomy.gov, annual fuel costs for the Leaf are $600. While, a driver could save around $1,150 on fuel annually on the Leaf, it would take around 9.5 years before he could match the $10,960 price difference. So it was not really a surprise that many drivers still do not prefer EVs.

A Congressional Budget Office report on incentives for EVs noted the basic problem, which is that larger batteries for longer range add cost. The report also noted that $7,500 tax credit is not enough to bridge the cost gap between electric vehicles and higher-fuel-economy conventional vehicles. The report suggested that the most effective and also most politically unlikely way to reduce gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is by raising taxes on the fuel, “because consumers would drive less in the vehicles they already own."

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