Electric cars, hybrids, and related vehicles


This is another false flag to an extent. It is true, but I think we can’t give any ground to the hard right-wing rhetoric these days. “Oh YEAH! You PINKO! If you cared about climate change you’d know that you should drive a used 1992 Chevy Sprint, not a Tesla! Do the CO2 math! You’re a hypocrite, and a loser!”

People are going to buy cars over time. Encouraging more sustainable choices such as EVs makes sense.

Note my rant isn’t to you or anyone here, it’s just to the sad state of rhetoric on electric cars.


In a lot of cases it makes sense, especially if you are in the market for a new car anyway (old car is 100k+ miles) you should get a hybrid or electric, but I think we should also balance out the corporate rhetoric of “Buy a new thing, that is good for the environment”


Not really though. You’re talking about behavior change. It’s a much different animal than product selection. I agree with you 100% that you’re right. But by muddying the water with this, it can still do harm when Trump removes EV subsidy because “pinkos could just keep their cars longer to save CO2, in the meantime everyone else should buy land yachts.”

Same as telling people to just drive less, or take transit. Of course it’s true, but it might not get us where we need to be either. Gas taxes / carbon pricing and EV subsidy arguably do.


Gas taxes are real bad though, in terms of how unequally they effect the poor. Who can’t afford to upgrade to a newer car. I don’t really like the subsidy as a way of stimulating growth in the EV market either, because it isn’t sustainable at scale, and is again another tax break for the wealthy. I think sticking to the MPG goals for manufacturers is a better way of altering the market, forcing automakers to invest in greener technologies, or subject them to taxes/fines.

Part of this is all moot though, because the EV market has been completely invigorated by the Tesla vehicles, and I think the infrastructure, as well as other automakers are going to be following suit soon enough. The consumer options for EV’s will get better, and more people will just switch over, because the EVs are better options than the ICE vehicles.

Thanks to the EV tax credit, car buyers can qualify for up to $7,500 in government subsidies when buying an electric vehicle. In 2016, 57,066 individual taxpayers claimed $375 million in EV tax credits. These subsidies overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. Tesla buyers, for example, had an average household income of $293,200 in 2013. A study in 2015 found that electric Ford Focus buyers had an average household income of $199,000. By contrast, the median household income in the U.S. in 2015 was $56,516.


There are a lot of things EVs have to do before they can be truly mainstream. One is have the range and wealth-tolerance necessary to function well in all climates, including really cold climates. Another is charging mechanisms and infrastructure that is affordable and available to everyone, not just elites or residents of particular metro areas. Both of these are being worked on pretty heavily it seems. I am still skeptical of the widespread practicality of EVs at this point in time for a huge chunk of the American population that does not live in urban centers, does not own their own homes, and does not have dedicated, secure parking for charging systems.

Further, EVs have to be appealing for reasons other than economy or sustainability. Many people still buy cars with their gut as much as their brains, and I doubt that will ever change. Cars like that Audi up thread are a lot more appealing than most EVs, just based on look and amenities. Teslas appeal to a subset of drivers, but there is a much larger group I think that would definitely consider EVs if they looked more like the cars they aspire to get, or are excited by. Tesla approaches the problem by getting rid of the car-ness and substituting modern techno design, which works for some. Audi and BMW, on the other hand, seem to be heading in a different direction, designing EVs that mimic a lot of the design cues of their popular ICE vehicles. I suspect that the latter approach will have more mainstream appeal, but naturally will have to be adopted by manufacturers selling cars to mere mortals.

I mean, my next car won’t be an EV for some of the above reasons. It’s wicked cold here, and the people who have Telsas and the like usually drive ICE vehicles in the winter. In addition, there are nearly zero EVs being sold right now that appeal to me either as vehicles or as places to spend time in. The range of current EVs is fine for me, at least in the warmer months, but certainly among affordable EVs there is pretty much nothing that excites me. And unlike urban commuters who rightfully despise driving, my circumstances allow me to actually enjoy driving, and I see little reason to sentence myself to a boring, ugly, or just unsatisfying EV while I still have a choice.

That being said, I do think EVs are the future, for a bunch of reasons, and they may well be the impetus for us to revamp or ancient electric grid to boot.


@JonRowe we need to challenge these perceptions. A lot of them, because they’re a form of ‘good intentions doing harm’. In other words I know you mean well and we’re on the same page in terms of needing to reduce GHG, but you’re returning some of the right-wing rhetoric that doesn’t hold up all that well on scrutiny. Sorry if I deconstruct your post. By the way, part of my career is transportation policy planning and I’m open to a response and counterpoints.

Sounds reasonable on the surface, and you can find many, many references backing this up. Even from left-wing media sources. But a lot of actual study of this issue is that this isn’t necessarily true, and this can sometimes be yet another excuse or reason or cynical response to maintain the status quo.

For example, gas tax could be revenue neutral with reduction on base income tax rate, or (possibly) tax relief for low-income households. Then it becomes a progressive tax rather than regressive. Even without that tool, low-income people that are trying to get by are constrained by their whole economic situation, not just the price of gas. It turns out that surprisingly few low-income people commute to downtown Chicago a long distance in an SUV at rush hour every morning (those that would bear the brunt of the tax increase). The true day-to-day urban and rural poor (below the poverty) don’t actually drive that much, and if not to income tax reduction the fuel tax revenue can go to supporting the other modes of travel. Transit, walking, and cycling. Another issue is that fuel prices are variable (gas is cheap right now) and fuel tax could be a stability tool. If gas does skyrocket in price when the Iranians and Saudis start shooting guns, the tax I’m supporting could be relieved. All of a sudden instead of a 300% increase in the price of fuel damaging the economy, it could be a 200% increase.

Still you’re right, for those left that are commuting long distances, it can be a hit to disposable income. But as a percentage of the population there it’s not as large as you might think and there are tools to compensate. The fleet change over time, however, can benefit them more than the economic hit - e.g. they lose $350 a year in the first few years, but get back to neutral or ahead with fleet changes over time.

Thing is, there is a demand elasticity of fleet purchase with respect to fuel prices. When gas is cheap, people tend to buy more SUVs and trucks (perhaps not surprising). For the past several years the fleet has been changing to higher fuel use vehicles partly due to low gas costs. This affects the used car fleet over time. So again the ‘can’t afford new cars’ issue doesn’t really hold up over time. Raising the price of gas gradually improves the fleet gradually. The market is what it is. Gas in the US is extremely cheap by western economy standards, and those other countries have poor people in used cars barely getting by just the same. But their cars are more efficient.

The problem with fuel economy by regulation is that it can be rescinded at will any time the car makers say they need to because it’s oh so hard to make cars that get more than 25mpg. Which is exactly what has and is happening with Trump rescinding the fuel economy regulations. It basically results in no action. Another decade goes by. No action.

Yet again I disagree. Pointing to the success of Tesla is great, but it doesn’t necessarily say much about EVs, at least not yet. Tesla is still a fashion statement success story, for better or worse. It’s what the cool kids have. As of right now, it could easily swing to the new Jeep Wrangler (they look cool :). For evidence I’ll just point out that the Nissan Leaf is arguably a better EV for the masses at its price and yet it’s struggling to sell. Have you priced a model 3? Mid-range, $83,000 Canadian. Yikes. Separating the marketing potential of Tesla with the EV technology and EVs aren’t on their own yet either appealing enough, or priced well enough. So when we have a much more sustainable option that struggles economically in the face of entrenched habits, we’re not supposed to subsidize it? Why not? That’s why the word ‘subsidy’ exists. Again it could be revenue neutral.

Let me know if I have you thinking about it! Cheers


I don’t think I will understand the mental gymnastics you are using here to justify the idea of taxing corporations over people is “right-wing rhetoric”. But I am glad to have a debate over this.

I understand where you are coming from with the idea of moving the fleet of drive-able cars to a more clean set of cars, but I don’t agree with your idea that this is something that should be driven directly by consumers. I think that putting the onus on consumers to be smarter shoppers by taxing them is similar to all of the issues I have with plastic straw bans and other issues effecting climate change.

It is the expectation that we as consumers are to fix this issue. It is B.S. and it is large corporations handing of the social responsibility of being green to customers.

I think it would be more fair to force these companies to create greener cars.

Tesla, again is a great example of that.

This is true. But I think this is similar to smartphones. When that technology released, it was the new hot thing to have! But now, even the homeless have smartphones. All of the other companies followed suit, and like the leaf, some may argue that the Android phone is better than the 1200 dollar (jesus) Iphone people still buy the brand. They want the cool, but for those without 1200$ to buy a smartphone, they can still get a cheap motorola android phone for 200$, with a lot of the same functionality.

I think Tesla has made people think that EV’s can be cool, and that they can be used universally. It has shifted the perspective, much like how the iphone changed the perspective we had of cellphones in 2008.

I just think that it should never be the burden of the consumer to drive the market, when it comes to climate change. Customers are fickle, like you said, and the Wrangler could be in a rap video, and the hot new thing, and the backslide happens again.

The MPG requirements forced companies to develop very high level MPG vehicles to offset their SUV lines.

The same is true for gas taxes, subsidies or any government regulatory program. They can be dismantled the same way if the people in power are wont to do.

Bottom line, gas taxes put a greater burden on the poor than the wealthy, and EV subsidies are primarly given to the wealthy. It is income inequality baked in to the system.

If you have a chance (or quite a few chances) here is a more recent paper looking at the regressivity of the gas tax, and how previous analyses have neglected to factor in wealth and have looked at gas tax vs straight income.

Pretty good read.

Bottom line:

The literature on the distributional incidence of gasoline taxes, as well as more generally of carbon pricing, ignores wealth as a dimension of economic welfare and, thus, as a component of ability to pay. With reference to the US federal gasoline tax, we show that this is an important omission, which results in a significant underestimation of both the regressivity of the tax and its inequity towards younger people. Taking wealth into account exacerbates the regressivity outcome because the distribution of wealth is much more concentrated than that of income, which is the standard measure of current ability to pay, and all the more so of total expenditure, often used as a proxy for lifetime ability to pay. Taking wealth into account also reveals that, in relative terms, younger people actually bear greater tax burdens than those resulting from using income or total expenditure as measures of ability to pay. This is the case because, on average, older people own more wealth.


Thanks for the reply. In very simple terms I see “forcing companies to provide X” as more difficult and less likely to succeed compared to a carbon tax, which uses a mechanism that already exists and works great (gas tax is collected and distributed). Wikipedia has a great page - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_tax.

According to the Carbon Tax Center,[190] the United States is one of the few large and industrialized nations on Earth that does not implement a Carbon tax. One simple solution being considered is to implement a federal carbon emissions tax, instead of relying on states to enforce their own. According to economists a tax would be the simplest and the easiest way to reduce emissions since, primarily, it seems like a plan both parties can get behind since it would not impose strict regulations on business, instead allowing the industries to self regulate, while also a showing that the government is taking steps to protect the environment. Furthermore, a tax would lead both producers and consumers to adjust their respective habits accordingly, and in ways that may become more efficient.[191] On July 23, 2018 Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) introduced H.R. 6463, [192] the “Modernizing America with Rebuilding to Kick-start the Economy of the Twenty-first Century with a Historic Infrastructure-Centered Expansion (MARKET CHOICE) Act.” There is also a national movement called Citizens’ Climate Lobby to create support across parties to put a national price on Carbon.

Personally I like the idea because it makes tax avoidance easier - burn less gas, pay less tax.

Also, CAFE is so useless that even Car and Driver calls it out peridically. https://www.caranddriver.com/features/csaba-csere-top-10-reasons-why-the-corporate-average-fuel-economy-law-is-d-u-m-b-column


You’re thinking too small. The trough to peak increase for petrol in the UK over the last 10 years is around 70%. Diesel is about 40%.