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Captain Hybrid

California Should Mandate the Purchase of EVs

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Alexander Wolfe
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Tough love...
Alexander Wolfe   7/14/2011 12:12:59 PM
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This is a bold stand, Chuck, and I have to say it's out-of-box thinking to look at the mandate from the user side, instead of the manufacturers'. To make this something which has even a prayer of going beyond the discussion phase, though, Calif. is going to have to pony up and get the charging infrastructure built out. That's starting to happen, but very slooowly...

Rob Spiegel
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Forcing you to buy an EV
Rob Spiegel   7/14/2011 12:18:08 PM
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I can understand cafe standards, but mandating that a specific portion of cars sold in California be EVs seems an overreach unless it comes with a powerful incentive. This law goes against human nature, asking people to act outside of their own best interest.

A certain percentage of people will buy an EV because then can afford it and they are not concerned about the cost/benefit deficit. But the percentage of people willing to overlook the cost/benefit problem with EVs cannot be predicted -- except that it will be low. Gas would have to skyrocket to end that deficit. The Saudi folks won't let that happen.

So it seems state incentives that can erase the cost/benefit deficit may be the only way to make this work. Right now, California can't afford that.

Jennifer Campbell
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Gold
Absurd and logical
Jennifer Campbell   7/14/2011 12:18:26 PM
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I completely agree with your assessment, Chuck - absurd and logical. On the one hand, I can understand that the California government wants to clean up the air quality in that state. And they should take major steps to do so. Fine - call on the automakers to clean up their acts/autos. But to mandate every car-owning resident buy an EV? That's a little far-fetched, don't you think? Am I mistaken when I say you yourself have written that EVs are so pricey most Americans can't afford them or simply won't shell out the cash for them? Let's discuss!

Lauren Muskett
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Platinum
EVs
Lauren Muskett   7/14/2011 12:24:08 PM
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I could see how the car manufacturers are worried about making a pre-determined amount of a product that could potentially not sell. As for putting the requirement on residents, I do not think it is fair. You cannot "force" people to buy the EV, instead the state could offer more of an incentive to purchase the vehicle, an incentive so good you just can't say no!

Charles Murray
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Dire circumstances
Charles Murray   7/14/2011 12:34:56 PM
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You're correct, Jenn. I have written -- repeatedly -- that electric cars are too costly for the average person. Apparently, though, the circumstances are dire now. If I'm to believe what CARB says, Californians can't live this way anymore. So what good does it do the state to force automakers to build cars that consumers buy in such low numbers? Does it help clean the air? If the circumstances are so urgent, then they should enact an appropriate regulation, instead of going through the charade of leaning on the automakers.    

Jennifer Campbell
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Gold
Re: Dire circumstances
Jennifer Campbell   7/14/2011 12:50:48 PM
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Regulations are definitely needed. What, if any, incentives is the government willing to extend to residents forced to buy an EV? Has the discussion gotten that far? If this radical plan moves forward, I would hope government officials would vote to place a limit on how much automakers could charge for these cars. Then again, this is America - how far is too far when it comes to what the government can/should mandate?

Charles Murray
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Re: Dire circumstances
Charles Murray   7/14/2011 12:57:51 PM
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No, Jenn, the discussion has not gone that far. Californians would cast out and smite any politician who suggested it, so details are pretty scarce at this point.

Beth Stackpole
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Blogger
Re: Dire circumstances
Beth Stackpole   7/14/2011 1:28:26 PM
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In this highly-charged political climate, at a time when more people are calling for hands-off government, it would seem that no one would touch the idea of mandating the consumer purchase of EV, even in a liberal state like California. I agree with those advocating for consumer incentives. Whether it's in the form of rebates, tax breaks, whatever ... But the incentives have to really go far towards defraying the cost otherwise, people are people, as Rob says, and few will buy something they don't think is of value or a good deal just because it's good for the environment or the overall populace.

Jennifer Campbell
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Gold
Re: Dire circumstances
Jennifer Campbell   7/14/2011 1:30:49 PM
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Thanks Chuck - keep us posted! I'd be interested to see how far this actually gets before the idea fizzles out or California residents start rioting.

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
A modest proposal
Dave Palmer   7/14/2011 1:37:31 PM
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Ok, this is an entertaining satire, but seriously... given that electric vehicles are mainly intended for personal inter-urban transit, isn't there already a solution to this problem which is much greener and much more cost effective? I'm talking about public transportation.  Trains, light rail, buses, etc.  When I lived in Chicago, I never owned a car.

And, to be fair to California, the reason why the impetus is placed on automakers is precisely because of the price issue.  There is not much that customers can do to bring down the price of EVs (other than, perversely, buy less of them).  Automakers, on the other hand, have the engineering resources to hopefully figure out how to make these things more cheaply.  The point of the mandate is to give them a financial incentive to do so - figure out how to make EVs cheap enough that 5.5% of people can afford them, or else pay a penalty.

I think the California mandate is heavy-handed and clumsy, but I don't think it's as worth of ridicule as some people seem to think.  Companies always whine and complain about regulations of any kind (they're like teenagers that way), but in many cases regulations actually help to push innovation.  For example, CAFE standards probably played a major role in development of advanced high strength steels.

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