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Electric Cars: Bad for the Environment, Good for China

Electric cars are often praised in the media as beacons of environmentalism. However, the reality is less flattering. As JLF’s Dr. Don van der Vaart writes in his most recent research brief:

[Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs)] are not more fuel-efficient than similarly sized gasoline-powered vehicles. Also, shifting the transportation energy usage from gasoline to electricity may actually increase GHG emissions.

And the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board agrees that the data in favor of PEVs are anything but conclusive. Dr. van der Vaart quotes the Board’s recommendation to revisit PEV incentives:

“PEVs do not appear to be more fuel efficient than modern internal combustion engine vehicles that are similarly equipped. In addition, at this time an increased load on the nation’s electricity grid caused by an increase in PEV use could lead to an increase in GHG emissions rather than a reduction. Taken together it is not clear that there is an adequate scientific basis for incentivizing PEVs as a means for reducing GHG emissions at this time.”

Despite the lack of scientific consensus on the benefits of PEVs, Gov. Roy Cooper carelessly promotes PEVs in his “Clean Energy Plan” (CEP). At best, Cooper’s glorification of PEVs is just another ill-considered public policy. But, at worst, Dr. van der Vaart warns it is a stance which both undermines the health of the state’s environment and disproportionately benefits a foreign power. Dr. van der Vaart explains:

China is a major proponent of PEVs… China does not have enough petroleum resources to fuel its needs and wants to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. A move to PEVs would reduce their demand. [In addition,] China wants to be the world’s leader in PEV manufacturing

There are currently almost 300 million cars in the U.S. Each of those cars would need about a half-ton of batteries. Those batteries would need a lot of exotic materials such as lithium, cobalt, copper, neodymium, and molybdenum. China is currently a leader in all these areas. 

And China is going to great lengths to ensure the advancement of PEVs. Dr. van der Vaart writes:

[T]he Chinese people are not enthusiastically embracing PEVs. So to increase usage at home, the government has instituted a lottery for car licensing in which your chances of winning a license and being allowed to drive are improved by buying a PEV. In other areas, taxicab drivers are forced (this is a communist regime, after all) to drive PEVs. According to the story, the drivers aren’t happy about it, either, because they lose two hours of carrying fares whenever they need to charge their vehicles.

Read Dr. van der Vaart’s full brief here. Read parts one through three of this series critiquing Gov. Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan here, here, and here.

Brenee Goforth / Marketing and Communications Associate

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