Short Circuit: The High Cost of Electric Vehicle Subsidies


Is the internal combustion engine dead? It soon will be, according to advocates for “zero-emissions vehicle” (ZEV) technologies, especially battery-powered electric vehicles. They claim that ZEVs will offer superior performance, lower cost, and, most importantly, “emissions-free” driving.

Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. Critics of the internal combustion engine fail to consider just how clean and efficient new cars are.

Using a recent forecast prepared by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the analysis in the new report, “Short Circuit: The High Cost of Electric Vehicle Subsidies,” shows that, over the period 2018 – 2050, the electric generating plants that will charge new EVs will emit more air pollution than the same number of new internal combustion engines, even accounting for air pollution from oil refineries that manufacture gasoline. As for the greenhouse gas reductions promised by EV advocates, Lesser’s analysis finds that the reduction will be less than one percent of all energy-related U.S. emissions over that same time period, and will have no impact on climate whatsoever.

The report’s findings include:
· Between 2018 and 2050, generating the electricity for battery powered vehicles will emit an additional 300,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 50,000 tons of NOx, and 75,000 tons of particulates compared with the same number of new internal combustion engines.
· Subsidies for the 5 million ZEVs and 250,000 public charging stations mandated by California Governor Brown will likely cost California taxpayers and ratepayers $100 billion.
· EV subsidies benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor. A nationwide survey of EV owners in 2017 found that 56% had household incomes of at least $100,000 and 17% had household incomes of at least $200,000. In 2016. median household income for the US as a whole was less than $58,000.
· Subsidies for behind-the-meter residential solar electric generation, which also tends to be installed by wealthier consumers, exacerbate these inequalities by forcing lower-income consumers to pay for additional electric infrastructure and back-up generation.

To effect this change, governments are spending billions of dollars to subsidize electric vehicles. These subsidies include state and federal tax credits for purchasing ZEVs and programs to subsidize the installation of vehicle-charging infrastructure in businesses, households, and along highways. Several states also have mandated the sale of ZEVs. For example, an executive order signed by California governor Jerry Brown in January requires 5 million ZEVs to be on the state’s roads and highways by 2030.

Will these subsidies and programs accomplish their objectives? And at what cost? A review of the literature finds few cost-benefit studies on these key questions.


Broad-based adoption of ZEVs will increase overall emissions of sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and particulates, compared with the same number of new internal combustion engines. The simple fact is that, because of stringent emissions standards and low-sulfur gasoline, new gasoline-powered cars and trucks today emit very little pollution, and they will emit even less in the future.

Subsidies for ZEVs and the required infrastructure to support them benefit the higher-income consumers who can afford to purchase them at the expense of lower-income consumers who cannot. In California alone, the total cost of ZEV subsidies, including federal tax credits and state rebates for ZEV purchases, as well as subsidies for private and public charging infrastructure, is likely to exceed $100 billion.


There is still a lot to be worked out with moving to electric cars. One is the loss of federal excise taxes on gasoline. States and possibly the federal government will increase this tax hurting those that still drive internal combustion cars and trucks.

One big factor people seem to ignore is the cost of repairs on these electric cars. It’s all fun and games until something goes wrong and the warranty has run out. Now if you really want to pass out over sticker shock the repair costs for the hybrids is off the charts.


A lot to be worked out???

Like the issue they need to be charged from oil/gas electric generating plants?

Like charging stations in flyover country are non existent?

Batteries are toxic and disposal a little issue?

Exactly how will semi’s transport all the goods that people consume in the cities without diesels?

Perhaps an excise tax on electric vehicles is in order. After all they damage the roads as much as a conventional vehicle.


Electric cars came on kind of strong many years ago then faded out when the internal combustion engine became more abundant. However the main reason for the electric car to go the way of the dinosaur was cost. Companies kept building more expensive cars with more luxury and priced themselves out of business.

I see the same happening now. To get a decent electric car that can go a reasonable distance between charges costs a fortune.

Like already mentioned we will need to deal with the batteries after they ran their life cycle. The higher demand for electric as well as an increase of usage on our power grid that is in dire need of upgrading.


The joke is electric vehicles are recharged via a carbon based power plant, many coal.
The oh so green solution with a brown cloud cover.


The same joke as young communist revolutionists posting and arranging their socialist playdates to compete with other third-world countries in the race to the bottle, on their mass-produced iPhones, made affordable by capitalism.


Unless vast areas of land are used to implement wide scale solar parks, electrical vehicles still relying on carbon emitting power plants will remain a joke. A solar revolution is a must if electrical vehicles need to be justified.


Vast areas of land??

If it’s not close to cities where the electricity demand is highest, infrastructure will be required. The down side, those high voltage power lines have loss, the farther you run them, the higher the loss.

Solar is 11% efficient when you factor in night time hours. Not a great solution.

Wind id drought with problems from location to the reality the wind dean;t always blow.


Solar power sources are 100% efficient when operating, 0% when not. Solar energy costs us nothing. This if course is totally true only if one discounts the fact that solar panels rob the areas beneath them of solar energy. In the winter months they rob the roof (or ground) of any solar energy that would have been captured had the panel not been there. In the summer months that fact aids the cooling systems by requiring less energy of them.


11% is very bad efficiency, some lab testings of new materials scored efficiencies of up to 44%, its called multi junction solar cell technology, but they’re still lab results where the environment is conditioned for maximum efficiency, there is no dirt, dust or particles clogging the panel, these efficiencies are near impossible to be reached in practice, however efficiencies of about 20~% are achievable in practice, some solar cars that use solar cells peak 28% efficiency which is really great given that the energy intake scales with area & time, this means every 1% even 0.1% matters.


The efficiency we’re talking about is the ray absorptivity, meaning the amount of energy that is useful to the solar panel with respect to the total energy available, not the input to output efficincy which is true in your case because there is no input power to run the panels.
Unless you factor in robots cleaning the cells from the dirt, which is pretty much negligable.


The energy received by solar cells is essentially free…so the efficiency is essentially 100% while the sun shines.


You’re right, you’re not wrong , but this is not the efficiency we’re talking about
Imagine the sun’s light on a 1 meter squared panel, an efficiency of 22% means the solar panels only absorbs 22% of the energy that is available in that meter squared of area.
No solar panel manages to absorb every bit of watt available, theres always leftovers that get reflected or simply just not get absorbed.


You’re right, you’re not wrong, but the efficiency as related to the human endeavor to capture usable electrical energy from the sun is 100% regardless of the solar cell’s inability to convert all of the solar energy into electrical energy. This being because the energy is absolutely free (after recovery of costs to purchase and install the cells and power distribution/storage systems).

Some of the energy is reflected by the surface of the cell, some is absorbed as heat energy, the rest is converted to electrical energy, some of which can be stored in batteries for use when the sunlight is not present. The energy is still free.

Fossil fuels are not free as the costs of retrieving and handling them never really goes completely away.


Again, i get your point, i never challenged this statement, this just wasnt the efficiency we were talking about. While what you said was true, it was irrelevant to the matters we were discussing.
Im not trying to be rude.


There is no free lunch.

A multicrystalline-silicon photovoltaic system for your house needs to operate between one to four years to recover the energy invested in its manufacture.

Then there are the maintenance costs for upkeeping the system. This would need to be delegated to professionals which comes at a price. The majority of homeowners can’t install a simple outlet. They sure are not going to be able to work on a solar cell system.

The new micro-inverters now last up to 25 years. The panels will degrade by about 1% each year. Their life span depends on how well the system is maintained and the location. Under ideal conditions it’s about 20 years.


I know that. I am just merely being a well educated Electrical Engineer and a stickler for exactness.


Then I am not among the majority of homeowners.

TANSTAAFL is certainly a truism.


Good for you. I too am an Electrical Engineer. However we are not the majority of homeowners.


Cheers from a fellow mechanical engineer