A costly automobile subsidy for electric cars, including the Chevrolet Volt

A costly automobile subsidy for electric cars, including the Chevrolet Volt

December 13th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt

Photo by Chevrolet

Certainly no make of automobile has been invented that didn't have some glitches, particularly in its early stages. And not every car instantly takes off in popularity with the public.

But some apparent problems with the electricity- and gas-powered Chevrolet Volt are doubly frustrating because of the substantial federal subsidies -- funded by taxpayers -- that have been provided to encourage production of the Volt.

According to news accounts, in multiple instances, the Volt's 400-pound battery pack has either caught fire or started smoking and throwing off sparks days or even weeks after simulated crashes.

Appropriately, General Motors is offering loaner vehicles to thousands of Volt drivers as a precaution while the battery issue is being addressed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The company has even offered to buy back the Volt from concerned customers. GM said the Volt's battery pack would not be hazardous during or immediately after a crash, and the company is "depowering" the battery pack of any Volt that has been involved in a serious crash, to head off any risk that it might catch fire later.

The NHTSA's investigation of the Volt's battery pack came as GM was preparing to ramp up production of the vehicles -- from 1,600 to 3,200 per week.

But it is worth pointing out that makers of electric cars, their suppliers and their customers have received $5 billion worth of federal government funding to encourage the production and sale of the vehicles. That includes large federal tax credits for the purchase of such cars.

The Obama administration is promoting electric vehicles as a less polluting alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars. The administration aims to have 1 million or so electric vehicles on U.S. roads in about three years. But so far the American people have not eagerly embraced the vehicles.

And even if the recent safety concerns had not arisen, it is not legitimate federal business to be propping up one type of vehicle over others through taxpayer-funded subsidies.