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Dumb electric vehicle agreement gets government in the way

Dumb electric vehicle agreement gets government in the way

Wayne Hoffman
October 6, 2017
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October 6, 2017

If electric vehicle manufacturers want mass adoption of their product, including in western states, they should take it upon themselves to get the job done, not depend on government to do it for them.

Yet, politicians in seven western states, including Idaho, have announced that they’re going to solve the problem of “range anxiety” among electric vehicle owners. How? By establishing regional charging stations along western freeways, including Interstates 15, 84, 86 and 90 in Idaho.

I didn’t know that range anxiety was a real thing until now. Range anxiety is, at least for the moment, not a medical condition but the concern that your Tesla or other plug-in car won’t be able to make it to the next charging station before it’s drained of energy. You can’t visit far-flung locations in the West if the juice you need to power your car isn’t readily available, say the governors of Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. They’ve signed an agreement promising that government will lead the way in promoting electric vehicle “acceptance and awareness.”  

The agreement calls on states to adopt “voluntary” minimum standards for vehicle charging stations “including standards for administration, interoperability, operations, and management” and to “identify and develop opportunities to incorporate electric vehicle charging station infrastructure into planning and development processes, such as building codes, metering policies, and renewable energy generation projects.” As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, today’s voluntary is tomorrow’s mandatory.

Nonetheless, the agreement will have predictable results, the same as other interventions by government into the marketplace. Government will slow adoption as bureaucrats hold meetings, discuss options and write plans. Meanwhile, electric vehicle makers and gas station owners will wait to see what government does, rather than move forward with their own plans funded with their own dollars. Invariably, some states will start offering taxpayer incentives—if nothing else, so that state officials can show  support for “clean” energy—that distort the marketplace and harm taxpayers by forcing them to subsidize the development of the governors’ dream network of charging stations.

The seven states that are choosing to address this issue are also ignoring history. Americans have always figured out how to fuel our vehicles without needing government. In the early 20th century, car owners got their gasoline from blacksmiths, pharmacies and hardware stores. Later, “filling stations” opened, with the earliest versions being traced to St. Louis and Seattle in 1905 and 1907, respectively. The traveling public has gotten to see continued innovations that improve the experience for motorists. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen service stations give way to convenience stores, and the arrival of the 24-hour attendant-less gas station.

On signing this multi-state electric vehicle deal with six other states, Gov. Butch Otter said, “In the West we pride ourselves on what we can accomplish by working together. This initiative will ensure that locals and visitors to Idaho and our neighboring states have the freedom to explore the West in the way they prefer.”

With all due respect, in the West, we pride ourselves on our ability to get things done without the need for government intervention in the marketplace. And freedom and the West are best enjoyed when unspoiled by government and politicians.

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