The Biden administration shouldn’t ignore hybrid cars
Ashley Nunes is a research fellow at Harvard Law School and director of competition policy at the R Street Institute.In this article, he argues that hybrid vehicles should be at the heart of the Biden administration’s plans to deal with climate change.
It pays to own a car. Research suggests that income increases when a car is in the driveway. But owning a car also comes at a price. Transportation is one of the main causes of greenhouse gases and the bulk of these emissions come from the coupes, vans and wagons that transport consumers everywhere from work to grocery shopping to playing football on weekends. end (publisher: football).
Electrification should help. Electric vehicles are less dependent on fossil fuels for energy and less dependence on fossil fuels means less greenhouse gas emissions. This makes electric vehicles a greener alternative to the status quo. But they also pose a thorny challenge. The technology remains more expensive than gasoline-powered cars. And few things influence car sales like the price of stickers.
The solution is allegedly subsidies. Nothing tempers the shock of stickers like government aid. Joe Biden certainly thinks so. The 46th US President recently announced $ 174 billion in federal funding to achieve EV nirvana. The move, Biden argues, “will unify and mobilize the country” and “reduce the effects of climate change on our children.”
Biden’s efforts have a precedent. Norway has long relied on generous incentives to boost sales of electric vehicles. Since the early 1990s, potential buyers have been teased by shopping perks such as discounts on local ferries, free access to bus lanes and, most notably, relief from the hefty import taxes of vehicles. The result? Just over 54 percent of all new car sales today are electric, a world record, and down from just 1 percent a decade ago.
But reducing emissions requires more than robust sales figures. What also matters is the intention of potential buyers; how electric vehicles are inevitably used. On these fronts, the picture is not so rosy.
Studies show that EVs are largely bought as add-ons and not as substitutes – or, to put it mildly, as second cars. For the masses, gas consumers remain the automobile of choice (which is probably why internal combustion engine sales have continued to increase in Norway as well). In addition, the kilometers traveled in an electric vehicle pale compared to those traveled in gasoline-powered cars, in Norway and elsewhere.
None of this necessarily makes EV grants a bad idea. If the goal is simply to boost sales of electric vehicles, distributing government documents is – by almost everyone’s opinion – the way to go. But if reducing emissions is what taxpayers value (I know I certainly do), then subsidizing electric vehicles is, to say the least, bonkers.
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A more pragmatic approach would be to guarantee sales of hybrid vehicles. Admittedly, these vehicles are not as clean as electric vehicles. But hybrids aren’t that expensive either. This makes purchasing technology a smarter use of public funds. Additionally, consumers genuinely enjoy driving hybrids and these vehicles are a greener alternative to conventional cars.
Affinity for hybrid electric vehicles is particularly high among low- and middle-income households, a population that often tends to buy more polluting vehicles. Such buying habits are hardly surprising. The masses may care about the planet, but they care even more about saving money. Gas consumers are – at least initially – cheaper, and feeding families today takes priority over saving the planet tomorrow.
Green mainstays may not like the idea of supporting hybrids. Tackling climate change, they will say, requires more than adjustments in climate policy. It requires real change. Perhaps. Then again, big things tend to happen when you do the little things right.