I received a letter (below) from a reader who took issue with my taking issue with electric cars generally and Tesla specifically. This reader claimed to be a Libertarian – which staggered me like a punch from Ali in his prime.
I figured it was worth an at-length reply since there are actually a lot of people out there who think Elon Musk is a Libertarian.
Paul writes: I’m a libertarian Tesla owner and also a writer on the costs of the car and have written on how the costs of ownership are similar to a Camry, but the car drives better than most Porsches, is safer than any other car tested and very economical if you drive a lot.
You talk constantly about the 45 minutes it takes to do a fast charge and that is a disadvantage. But it saves time every week not going to a gas station and that adds up. My wife loves the car and the technology is so beyond anything else available. It ready is like going from a flip phone to an iPhone. If they weren’t fabulous, they wouldn’t sell like hot cakes without any advertising. They will be very competitive and profitable once all subsidies are gone because they have such a simple design. So few buttons in the interior to cost money and break. So few moving parts to break. Motor just validated to work for a million miles.
My reply: If you’re a Libertarian, I assume you oppose using government force to compel the manufacture of a product and its purchase, and also the artificial favoring of a product via subsidies and such . . .? If so, then it is hard to for me to understand how you can claim to be a Libertarian and defend Tesla – or electric cars generally.
Instead, we have vehicles like the Tesla and the others have no significant natural market; they exist almost entirely because of “zero emissions” mandates and federal fuel efficiency mandates – neither of which are very Libertarian. Tesla is also the recipient of massive subsidies, as are the individual “buyers” of its cars (which are “sold” at a net loss each).
I always pose the question: If EVs – Teslas and otherwise – are such hot tamales, why is it necessary to mandate their manufacturer and subsidies their purchase? Gas engined cars are viable on their economic and functional merits; they do not need subsidies to exist on the free market. This is inarguable – because it’s been demonstrated.
EVs like Teslas and the others do need subsidies and mandates – and cannot exist as other than very low volume toys for the affluent – without them.
If you’d had to pay full market price for your Tesla, would you have bought it? If you have a Model 3, that would be in the neighborhood of $55,000 or more. For a smallish sedan, not well-built, with less room than a Camry that costs $24k or so.
Yes, I do talk constantly about the 45 minutes it takes to recover a partial charge at a “fast” charger… because it’s clown-car absurd. It takes 5 minutes or less to refuel a gas car to full.
How is it progress or otherwise appealing to literally quintuple (and then some) the time it takes to refuel a vehicle? Gas costs $2.40 per gallon but time is priceless.
You have to recharge more often, too – because the range of the EV is less. It is like driving around a gas-engined car that can only go 150-200 miles (or less)
And you can’t fully recharge at a “fast” charger. Which is like driving around a gas-engined car with a 100-150 mile range. Or less.
Also having to think constantly about plugging in, dealing with the cord and all of that. The actual plugging-in isn’t that big a deal, but you do have to do it and think about doing it, rain or shine, winter and summer. Most people only need to gas their car up once a week and then forget about it until it needs to be refilled.
And “safer than any other car tested”? Perhaps the Model 3 (or the Model S) scored as well as others in their respective class of car, which is how the government rates “safety” – which is really a crashworthiness rating. But to claim either is “safer than any other car tested” is false. You talk about fewer moving parts – true – but neglect to mention the complexity of the electronics and the issue of their longevity as well as the longevity of a battery subjected to discharge/charge cycles.
But that debate isn’t the fundamental one.
The fundamental debate is about the government forcing EVs onto the market by regulatory fiat and mandates. And the subsidization of EVs, which is nothing less than a form of wealth transfer via force – and that is something a Libertarian ought to object to.
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