Toyota and Nissan Shift From Electric Vehicles; Death Knell for Chevy Volt?

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According to Toyota Vice Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, "Because of its shortcomings - driving range, cost and recharging time - the electric vehicle is not a viable replacement for most conventional cars; we need something entirely new." Uchiyamada is considered the "father of the Prius."

An article by Reuter's exposes the limitations of EVs and focuses on Toyota's, along with Nissan's, change in strategy, which is now moving away from EVs. Even the most ideological and extreme green energy proponents and backers of the Chevy Volt will have to open their eyes to the sad truth uncovered by the latest report.

The truth is that the technology of lithium-ion based, pure electric vehicles is not the most efficient manner to power motor vehicles. This is something that has been said before by many credible sources. In fact, I previously reported that auto industry executives and engineers voiced similar concerns. Even General Motors' executive director of powertrain-engine engineering, Sam Winegarden, once presented evidence that lithium-ion batteries, used in electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and GM's plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, were ranked close to zero compared to gasoline and diesel fuels, which delivered the most energy for the least amount of weight and cost to the consumer. Now, Uchiyamada becomes the most credible source to weigh in and attention should be paid to his opinion.

The recent Reuter's article states the obvious, "The reality is that consumers continue to show little interest in electric vehicles, or EVs, which dominated U.S. streets in the first decade of the 20th century before being displaced by gasoline-powered cars." Also, "Despite the promise of 'green' transportation - and despite billions of dollars in investment, most recently by Nissan Motor Co - EVs continue to be plagued by many of the problems that eventually scuttled electrics in the 1910s and more recently in the 1990s. Those include high cost, short driving range and lack of charging stations." It is important to note that the criticisms are aimed at plug-in EVs and not hybrids like the Toyota Prius.

American taxpayers and voters should open their eyes to the insane waste of taxpayer money on a pursuit by the Obama Administration to electrify the US auto fleet before considering whether or not this is the most efficient manner in which to wean America off of fossil fuels. The criticisms (i.e. reality) are coming from non-biased sources, not from right wing extremists or oil proponents. Why is the truth so hard to see? Why aren't Republican representatives questioning the green farce? How many billions of dollars need to be wasted on the green folly before the truth is exposed? No one in government is fighting to end the madness, even though a recent congressional budget office report showed that EVs are costing taxpayers billions of dollars with little benefit.

January's dismal sales figures for the Chevy Volt confirm the lack of interest by consumers in costly plug-in vehicles and some Chevy dealers have pulled the plug on the car. General Motors has been dishonest regarding demand for the vehicle and has had to manufacture demand with incentivized leases. Taxpayers pay $7,500 in federal subsidies on each plug-in EV sold (or leased) and sales are still swooning. Nissan has thrown away almost $6,000 on incentives on its competing Leaf, and the car sells even less than the Volt! What is it going to take to get the picture?

The saddest part of the green boondoggle story is that our own government is responsible for the wasteful focus on plug-in vehicles. General Motors still has Obama-appointed management that will not back off on the plug-in EV technology. In fact, they are doubling down on the losing hand. But Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Nissan executive vice president, sheds light on the true driving force behind the EV madness. Reuter's quotes Yamashita as he blames rising government fuel efficiency standards, "It is not possible to meet (future) regulations unless vehicles are electrified."

So, there you have it. Our government forces automakers to build cars that few want in a misguided strategy that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars backing a technology that was unproven and now admittedly not the best alternative to gas-powered vehicles. Auto manufacturers are not trying to make money selling the cars, nor are they even concerned with the low sales, with the exception of GM which has staked its reputation on the Volt and has had political motivations. The automakers don't have to sell a lot of these cars to meet rising government standards; they only have to offer them, which does nothing to actually help the environment or oil dependence. Now how stupid is that?

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.