Two Michigan congressmen misguiding the hybrid EV incentive debate

Taking a self-appointed cue from President Obama's State of the Union Address, Rep. Sander Levin and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan are obviously in favor of any incentive without reservation that supposedly supports Michigan jobs over more level-headed technologies.

Problem is, incentives are always at the tax payers’ expense; and most tax payers cannot afford an EV even with incentives and a job.

Check the internet and you will find more links to tax incentives for plug-in electric vehicles than ever in history.

Fact is, the President’s SOTU words are being twisted to support one technology like full electrics and hybrid electrics over equivalent but less expensive technologies, like HCCI, air hybrids and hydraulic hybrids that have the same potential to meet America’s energy and transportation needs.

Even the President noted that all sources of power will be needed. That automatically implies more than one technology for vehicles.

Then why should one technology get a government backed incentive over another, especially in a free enterprise system?

Proponents say that providing incentives to buy electric vehicles would reduce greenhouse gases and other pollution, plus diminish the nation's dependence on foreign oil. Truth is, the majority of electric power plants which will charge those electric cars burn coal.

Moreover, proponents of electric car investments say that in addition to the environmental benefits, electrification will serve the nation's security and economic concerns. Another truth is, America is awash in natural gas.

About the only benefit is over where you want your pollution. When running on electricity, the Volt and the Leaf issue no tailpipe pollution, but the pollution still occurs elsewhere, heavily at the power plants.

Sander Levin said that while investments in other fuels are important, the chief executives of the nation's three big automakers are enthusiastic about the possibilities of electric vehicles. Well, of course they would; the government still owns GM and Chrysler. So, it’s not surprising that General Motors chief executive Daniel F. Akerson is aiming to build 120,000 Volts next year, a significant expansion over this year's goal of 10,000.

Fact is, full EVs are not an absolute necessity. America has plenty of natural gas, and engine technology is developing fast which will combat city driving and range extended highway driving. General Motors has HCCI technology in their labs, which burns gasoline like diesel.

Furthermore, there are two major engine technologies on the horizon which will allow burning of flex fuels. They include the Scuderi Split-Cycle Air Hybrid engine and the Cyclone Power external combustion engine (ECE) that uses steam power for autos. Both are cleaner, more efficient and within reach of using existing infrastructures.

Likewise, the government has already committed to loans to support bio-fuels, which can be used within the existing infrastructures.

So, incentives are merely necessary because electric vehicles are so expensive, largely because of the cost of lithium-ion batteries. The Chevrolet Volt alone is priced at $41,000, and the Nissan Leaf at $32,780; both well above comparably sized cars with gasoline engines that can cost about $20,000.

Thus changing the technology of the engine itself to get the efficiency up may be the wiser and more cost-effective option for America; then save that tax money to pay down the national debt or invest in hydrogen, the ultimate direction of the auto industry.

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About the Author: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks and writes articles, books and ebooks via authorfrank.com, but may be contacted here by email: [email protected]

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Additional Reading:

Scuderi Air-Hybrid Engine technology setting up to challenge electric hybrids
Air hybrid technology key to 2016 and 2025 truck fuel economy
High-efficiency small cars shine at 2011 Detroit Auto Show
Stop-start technology to advance more micro hybrids by 2016
Full EVs at 2011 Detroit Auto Show not so green after all
Cyclone Power to run patented steam engine in land speed record attempt

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