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Rich Lowry: Breaking down the electric car sham
Rich Lowry
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. - photo by File photo

Rich Lowry

Syndicated columnist

Joe Biden has seen the future, and it is electric cars. Lots of electric cars. Electric cars — or else.

Donald Trump has seen the future, and it is a backlash against the mandate for the mass adoption of electric cars. The former president is promising to “stop this Madness, IMMEDIATELY!”

Who wins this political argument may determine who has the upper hand in a state like Michigan in a 2024 rematch. Regardless, all-caps aside, Trump is right about the lunatic urgency across the Western world to use government coercion to render all-butobsolete a popular, tested, highly efficient means of transportation.

The European Union wants to ban gas-powered cars in 2035. California and New Jersey are doing the same.

The goals here would make Soviet central planners blush. Last year, electric vehicle accounted for about 7% of U.S. sales, but according to the panjandrums at the Environmental Protection Agency, they’ll have to be nearly 40% by 2027. A couple of years after that, they’re supposed to be higher than 60%.

And why not? All that’s missing is the charging capacity and supply and processing of the minerals necessary to build the 1,000pound batteries, not to mention the consumer demand.

For Biden and his allies, though, what kind of automobiles we drive is not a practical question but almost a theological one. Believing that electric cars are key to saving the planet, they bring all the flexibility to the question as the organizers of Albigensian Crusade.

Insofar a rush to electric cars throws us into the arms of Chinese manufacturers and suppliers, it should rightfully be thought of as an anti-industrial policy.

We foolishly haven’t made adequate arrangements for mining or processing the minerals the batteries require, and it’s hard to ramp up quickly. Fortunately, there’s a country that’s a leader this area. Unfortunately, it’s China.

China is projected in the years ahead to maintain near total domination of the production of anode and cathode materials, key components of electric car batteries.

We’ve already begun to see how aggressive electric-vehicle mandates in Europe favor China, which makes serviceable electric cars. The Chinese have doubled their share of such vehicles sold in Europe since 2021, now up to 8%.

The U.S. has stiff tariffs against Chinese imports, but there’s still the question of the supply chain. Morgan Stanley writes, “The path we’re on now, despite existing legislation that attempts to incentivize onshoring, pushes rapid EV adoption which inherently increases reliance on a China-dominated battery supply chain.”

It’s not as though there’s anything inherently wrong with electric cars. If they are reliable, affordable, and valued by consumers — no problem. There’s no slighting the engineering achievement of Tesla or its genuine appeal to high-end consumers.

As Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute points out, electric cars are overwhelmingly part of the luxury market, and 90% of electric cars sold in the U.S. are second or third cars. What the U.S. government is insisting is that this niche market be imposed on the rest of the country.

It’s as if the federal government wants everyone to start drinking craft beers when they prefer Modelo.

The sales of electric vehicles in the U.S. have been growing but appear to be plateauing. Electric vehicles were 8.6% of new light-duty vehicle sales in the first quarter of this year, basically flat compared to the last quarter of 2022, at 8.5%.

The climate case for forcing these numbers higher is not as strong as advertised. It’s not clear exactly how much electric cars reduce emissions once all the inputs are factored in. On top of this, transportation accounts for less than 30% of U.S. emissions, and air and rail travel, as well as shipping, make a not-insignificant contribution.

Electric vehicles should be considered a nice, promising addition to the variety of the car market, not a quasi-holy obligation to be pursued at all costs.

Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.

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