How economical are electric cars? It’s hard to know. We don’t have a free market setting in which to judge the question.
Their obvious advantage? They don’t pollute.
But, skeptics remind us, their electricity does have to be first produced, and the most likely additional source? Coal. Dirty coal.
But isn’t it easier to put on scrubbers at a central plant rather than on millions of cars? Maybe electric cars really are a promising low-pollution transit option!
In any case, electric tech’s progress (or lack thereof) remains fascinating. When I wrote about the Tesla Motors electric sports car back in 2006, I was enthusiastic. But since then the car has not exactly “taken off,” and the company has received a huge, huge hunk of money in the form of loans from the Department of Energy in 2009, so it looks like just another Solyndra-like boondoggle.
But wait: It turns out that the company has faced an uphill battle: government.
The states heavily regulate auto dealerships. You know, “for the consumer” (read: for a few privileged dealers). Indeed, this regulation at the state level has plagued America’s auto industry for years. And dealers, privileged by these protectionist laws, really, really hate Tesla Motors’ marketing model: direct-to-customer.
In Colorado, car dealers got the law changed to prohibit direct-to-customer auto sales.
I hope Tesla sues to overturn the state dealership laws as illegal under the Constitution — after all, they do precisely what the interstate commerce clause was designed to prevent.
More likely, though, Tesla will seek and get an exemption from the Energy Department. And American mercantilism will continue.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.