America’s Automotive Future

Joe Biden, emulating trendsetting blue state governors like California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, recently has declared that by 2030, new car sales must be 50 percent zero-emission electric vehicles.

The problem with this decree is that it violates the proverbial rule against the government picking winners and losers. It’s one thing for the government to subsidize energy research, or, for that matter, any pure research. Libertarian purists might object to that, but sometimes these public-private research partnerships can accelerate innovation and help keep American manufacturers competitive. It’s quite another thing, however, for the government to restrict what sort of technology powers our vehicles, because there’s no way we can predict how technology will evolve between now and 2030.

Without any help from the government, electric motors already look very good as a competitor for the next generation default automotive power plant. Their horsepower-to-weight ratio is better than the finest internal combustion engines. Electric motors are simpler in design and require less maintenance than internal combustion engines, and they last longer. And as anyone driving a high performance sports car has learned to their possible chagrin, the extraordinary torque delivered by electric motors means a mid-range Tesla almost always beats them in a zero-to-60 challenge.

But if electric motors are highly competitive candidates to replace internal combustion engines, the technologies available to generate electricity and store it on board an EV still have a long way to go. As legislators in California […] Read More