Electric cars, government incentives, and pollution (and an Open Thread, if you want one)

Nissan LeafAside from domestic responsibilities and computer problems, the main reason for my slowed blogging has to do with cars.  Electric cars, to be specific.

Years ago, when I was living my life as a round of carpools, we bought a lovely Honda minivan. I really do mean lovely. It’s the most comfortable car I’ve ever owned. I’m petite, but it provides me with a perfectly elevated seat; it handles like a dream; I like the doo-dads and thingamabobs it offers; and I’m just generally happy with it. The only downside is that it gets around 18 or 19 miles per gallon, which is not a plus with Obama gas prices.

Actually, there’s now another downside, too. With my kids in high school, I’m no longer driving that endless round of carpools. Instead, it’s mostly just me in a car that can seat passengers, not including the driver. Sometimes I add a passenger or two, and I often have groceries, but it really is a shame to burn up so much expensive gasoline to transport a few people and some shopping bags.

We started looking into alternatives and decided that the all-electric Nissan Leaf would be good. It’s a surprisingly spacious car, it handles well, it’s range easily encompasses my daily Marin roamings, and  then there’s the real kicker:  Between federal and state incentives for electric vehicles, we get almost $12,000 towards a three-year lease.

That last factor makes the car eminently affordable. We’ll be paying only slightly more per month on the lease than I was already paying for gas. We’ll keep the old car for short trips or heavy loads (or for times when all three drivers in the family are heading in completely opposite directions), but we’ll use only the Leaf for the local trips.  Our electric bill will increase negligibly, our gasoline bill will decrease dramatically, and our monthly cash flow will be affected minimally.

Nice as they are, I’m actually somewhat embarrassed by those incentives. Yes, it’s true that I pay substantially more in taxes than someone who doesn’t live a nice upper middle class life in Marin. But precisely because I am able to live this nice upper middle class Marin lifestyle, I don’t really need the incentive.

The incentives certainly encourage me to buy or lease an electric vehicle, so they fulfill the government goal of getting more people into EVs, but I think it’s wrong that lower-income taxpayers are compelled to support me in any way. They, after all, are still paying taxes but, even with the taxpayer-funded incentive, they still can’t afford a lease.

A Democrat in the California legislature finally figured out just how unfair this is and has a bill pending to add means-testing to the rebate:

Since 2009, California gave a $2,500 tax rebate on zero-emissions vehicles like the Tesla Model S and Prius plug-in hybrid. And here’s something that should surprise no one: The majority of those rebates went to households earning $100,000 or more. Now that could change.

A bill sponsored by California Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) attempts to address the fact that nearly 80 percent of those rebates went to households bringing in more than $100k and that almost half of Tesla Model S owners receiving a rebate are making at least $300,000.

“A $2,500 rebate to purchase an electric vehicle is not likely to matter to someone earning over $300,000 a year, but it does make a big difference to someone earning $60k a year,” said de León. “Every community deserves clean air, regardless of wealth.”

(Read more here.)

Although I think that bill is the right thing to do, I’m not going to stand on principle here and turn my back on any money the government wants to give me — or, more accurately, give back to me.  After all, thanks to the highest income tax in the nation, a lot of our family’s hard-earned money routinely goes to fund all sorts of ridiculousness, such as California’s infamous “train to nowhere.”  Getting some of my money back towards an affordable, practical car is a good thing.

I’m also ambivalent about the vehicle because I find the whole “zero emissions” thing stupid.  Yes, it’s true that there are no emissions coming out the back of my vehicle, but you can’t escape the fact that it nevertheless generates a lot of pollution elsewhere.  It has a honking big battery, which currently pollutes China even more than China is already polluted.

Additionally, the car relies upon electricity that’s produced by generating a fair amount of dirt.  As I understand it, most American electricity comes from burning coal or gas, or from a nuclear plan (clean, but always unpopular in Progressive circles).   Water’s great, but it’s a distant third, with all the clean energies coming in far behind.  And of course, those clean energies aren’t so great either, given that their unreliable, and that they either slice and dice birds or fricassees them.

It still seems to me that the best way to power our world is to continue to rely on fossil fuel — that most reliable energy source — but to continue to work on ways to decrease the pollutants flowing from its use.  All these other things are pie-in-the-sky stuff.  Indeed, the fact that government needs to coerce and bribe people to use electric vehicles perfectly demonstrates just how ridiculous they are.  If they really were an affordable form of clean energy transportation, private business would be cleaning up on them without any help from the government.

And while I’m on the subject of government’s role in all this, I’d like to put in my application to immigrate to the Republic of Bill:

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  • jj

    What a Californian you are!

  • lee

    S#!t. I can barely make ends meet under the $#it that is the current exhibit. That extra twelve THOUSAND over the years would make my car payments. But I commute too far too make an electric car feasible, which South Carolina doesn’t underwrite wealth to that sorry of time. I’d’ve preferred not to have read how you are enjoying Obamas welfare program.

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      I am so sorry to hear that, lee. I know that I am very blessed to be able to live a nice suburban life. Certainly, my husband and I both worked and studied hard, but we also found ourselves in the right places, at the right times, with the right skill sets. That doesn’t mean any extra virtue for us; it just means we got lucky.

  • lee

    Economy not exhibit

  • Caped Crusader

    OPEN THREAD:

    Myth of arctic meltdown: Stunning satellite images show summer ice cap is thicker and covers 1.7million square kilometres MORE than 2 years ago…

    Where is this re[ported in USA press?

    Gore’s prediction it would be ICE-FREE by now

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2738653/Stunning-satellite-images-summer-ice-cap-thicker-covers-1-7million-square-kilometres-MORE-2-years-ago-despite-Al-Gore-s-prediction-ICE-FREE-now.html#ixzz3ByYTPhSA

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    I’d encourage you not to feel guilty taking (back) money from the government. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t approve of Social Security, and if I’d been given the option of investing my own “contributions”, I’d have grabbed the opportunity in a flash. But, I take the money, believe me.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t be caught DEAD in an electric car….for the same reasons that I’m resisting any solar panels on my roof, despite my big electric bills in June, July and August. We keep the house at 80, and open it at night with fans to circulate the cool(er) air, but I still paid $300.00 for electricity last month.

    However, no solar panels for me – partly because I don’t want to take (tax) money from people who can ill afford it. But there’s another reason, as well – by putting solar panels on my roof, or driving an electric car, I announce to anyone paying attention that I’m a believer in the nonsensical Big Lie that is Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. And I’m not. I’m trained as a scientist, and I’ve known for 30+ years that the entire mess is a political program masquerading as science. And I refuse to support it in any way whatever, whether directly or indirectly. I’ve spoken out (politely, I hope) for all of that time, and I’ve paid the price at times. There are former colleagues who will hardly speak to me because I ask questions they can’t answer….

    Anyhow, my two cents.

    By the way — has anyone noticed that Governor Brown wants to spend $65 Billion dollars on the Bullet Train to Nowhere, but no one in California has MENTIONED the possibility of hardening our electrical infrastructure to resist a solar storm or an Electr0-Magnetic Pulse attack? The latter would cost something in the low-single-digit Billions of dollars for the entire country….but somehow our genius politicians can’t be bothered.

    (sigh)

  • Jose

    A couple years ago John Stossel reported that golfers were getting gov rebates for electric golf carts, which essentially made them free. I can’t fault your justification for getting your own electric cart, so just keep us up to date on whether you think the technology is worthwhile.

    Turbo diesels are much more viable IMHO. I commute 100 miles a day, at 80 mph for about 70 of those miles. My VW Jetta diesel averages 48 mpg during hot weather, about 44 mpg during the winter. I got a $600 tax rebate (if I recall) when I bought it.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      Hussein’s golf club company President must be making off loads of money off that, and the manufacturers of those carts.

      Wonder if they are all Democrats.

  • Ron19

    Return to the Left?

  • Ron19

    Did you check out Smart Cars?

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    One thing to think about when considering an electric car is *climate*. Regular cars get their heating, when needed, from waste engine heat; the air conditioner compressor is of course driven off the engine. Neither of these is an option with a pure electric car, so someone living in a climate where there are either high heating demands, or high A/C demands, or both, is going to see significantly lower ranges for an electric than someone living in a milder climate.

    • Jose

      I live in a northern state. The one Prius owner I know has no idea whether the heat comes from the engine, or the battery. And he isn’t interested in finding out, as I’ve asked him more than once over the years.

  • Ron19

    Besides, didn’t he order you not to entice him back to your site?

  • sabawa

    Maybe bikes are the answer for around town driving. No emissions, no batteries, no giving Obama the satisfaction, (that’s me being small), and the benefit from all that exercise. Slap a basket on the back and a helmet on your head……off you go.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      The Japanese students love bikes. Although I haven’t seen them take a bike on a train yet, like in the US.

      They also carry girls on the back of the bikes, using only physical coordination and leg muscle power, going up and down hills. Hilarious.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      Book will probably be wary of Critical Mass, though. But I like to think that’s a Californian corruption, and it’s not about the bike itself at all.

  • bizcor

    An electric car is not practical in the northeast. My only issue with them per se is people telling me how they save the planet. Pleeeeeze! I know how electricity is generated! (Reminds me of a post I saw years ago. Some duffus holding a sign saying “who needs oil? I ride the bus”
    As far as solar panels are concerned, i’m considering them because here in the northeast it is not uncommon to lose power for extended,periods due to storm damage. I have a gas furnace but it is electric fired. Same with hot water and water in general. Well pump doesn’t work without electricity. My interest in solar is strictly practical. The same as having 4 wheel drive and or a snow blower. Some people suggest I get gas generator good idea but gas stations can’t pump gas wiihout electricty.

  • http://www.marchhareshouse.blogspot.com March Hare

    Hubs van died and we are looking for a replacement. We went to the local Toyota dealer to check out the interior capacity in a couple of models (4Runner, RAV4, and Highlander) when I saw a Toyota RAV4 that is completely electric. The range is 60 miles, then it needs a 4-hour (minimum) charge. So–it’s a mini-SUV that has to stay in an urban/suburban area. It won’t make it to LA, Santa Barbara, Yosemite, or Tahoe without a recharging somewhere along the way.

    What’s the point?

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    We ended up getting a Ford Focus electric this weekend. Because we have solar panels, our pricing scheme means that overnight charging costs us very little. Also, the way I drive — long smooth breaking and long smooth accelerating, all intended to give passengers an easy ride — means that the car generates a surprising amount of recaptured energy when I do the driving I do most: shuttling up and down Marin, taking care of children, mother, and household. It’s infinitely cheaper to use for this type of driving than my minivan was.

    We’ll still keep the minivan when we need a heavy-duty passenger or hauling car, or when the driving teens in our house need a ride to somewhere I’m not going.

    I have to say that it’s a smart car. I usually look to Japan for smart, well-built cars, but this one exceeded the Japanese models. It’s spacious for a small car, handles delightfully, and has a really smart, user-friendly interface. In this it is distinct from the Chevy Volt, which reminded me of this car:

    • Ron19

      So it’s not an instead of car but an additional car?

      • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

        Correct — it’s a minimal added expense (the gas savings equals the monthly payment and the government paid the down payment), so it improves the quality of our life without breaking the bank.

      • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

        The only real cost is the additional insurance.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    March Hare: If you haven’t already done so….do NOT buy before going to your Subaru dealer and looking at what they’ve got on offer.

    Best car I’ve ever had is my 2010 Outback. I really love this vehicle!!

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