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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Accusations of "another Solyndra"

Photo courtesy of Major Clanger via Flickr

Dumb headline, I know. I borrowed it from an article discussing a Mill Valley town council decision "not" to put in more electric car charging stations.

A local resident stood up to call electric cars something that was being forced on the community by the Federal government, "another Solyndra" that just "plain doesn't work."

Whatever. The cost of putting them in is relatively small (as will be the cost of tearing them out again when it's realized they are unnecessary). I suspect the real concern is lost parking space.

As the owner of a Leaf (and an electric bike) I tend to agree that the government should not be installing chargers. They are for the most part a waste of money. It's a bit foolish to rely on a charger being available at your destination if you need it to get home again. You may find your spot taken by another vehicle, or the charger may be out of service. And if you don't need it to get home again don't need it.

What are the odds? Pretty high from my experience. I know one guy who was counting on a Nissan Dealership who didn't come through. I know another guy who found the plug filled with mud and rocks (vandalism) and a woman who found the outlet she was counting on to get home was just plain dead, probably from a thrown breaker.

I've had no need for a public charger primarily because I don't intend to ever need one. I've used our other car twice in the two months I've owned the Leaf. Electric cars should not be used out of their designed range and are best suited for urban two-car families. They are not for dummies.

Let the market decide if and where to put chargers. My local Fred Meyers store put a charger in. I've never used it but I know a person who has. She certainly does not need to plug in to get home so I asked why she bothers. When I pointed out that she is only getting a few cents of free electricity and less than a mile or so of extra range she replied, "Every little bit helps." In other words, she does it because it feels good and you know what they say, "If it feels good ..."

Fred Meyers and a lot of other businesses will find out if the chargers increase profit margins because it feels good to enough electric car owners ...or not.

There are many things that government is best at. Some things just can't be left to the market. In general, the government should not attempt to do anything that the market can do better. I suspect that the installation of car charging stations is one of those things. Read Governors of West Coast States Nominated for Nobel Prize.

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