Electric Car Bill Will Do Little To Reduce Emissions

  • Tuesday, 29 March 2016 14:46

Today’s Star Tribune reported of a proposal in the Minnesota legislature that calls for a financial incentive to boost electric or plug-in hybrid sales in the state to reduce emissions.

According to the report, consumers would receive rebates of up to $2,500 when purchasing or leasing a new electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

As noted above, this incentive is aimed at boosting electric vehicle sales in Minnesota. Currently, the report said, there are 3,500 electric vehicles out of 4.6 million vehicles registered in the state.

While any incentive to reduce emissions is welcomed, it’s a bit hard to see how this incentive will lead to a dramatic increase in electric vehicle sales in Minnesota and ultimately, significantly reduce carbon emissions.

For one, a rebate of $2,500 won’t automatically make these vehicles more affordable.

Granted, there is a federal rebate of up to $7,500 but it isn’t something consumers will receive immediately, as this article points out, and may be something that isn’t even applicable to leases.

Consider the best-selling electric vehicle in 2015, the Tesla Model S which starts at $70,000. Even with a $2,500 rebate, the Tesla Model S still starts at a rather high price of $67,500.

That’s nearly triple the starting price for the Toyota Camry, the best-selling car in the country.

The second best-selling electric vehicle in 2015, the Nissan Leaf, is considerably cheaper than the Tesla Model S but still more than Nissan’s best-selling model, the Altima. Even with a $2,500 rebate, the Altima is cheaper (and a much bigger car too).

Nissan Leaf

The same goes for plug-in hybrids. The Chevrolet Volt would still be 42 percent more expensive than a Chevrolet Malibu even after the rebate.


The same goes with the BMW i3, which starts at $42,400. In comparison, BMW’s best-selling model, the 3-Series, starts at $33,150.

As such, it’s clear that these rebates won’t result in a massive upswing in electric car sales that would ultimately reduce harmful emissions. What’s worse, is that the consumers who can afford such electric vehicles aren’t exactly the kind that need a rebate.

If the legislature is serious about reducing emissions, then why isn’t it looking at promoting a solution (E15) that is available to eight out of 10 cars on the road instead of just the affluent segment of the market?

As the University of Illinois pointed out last year, if all cars in Minnesota were to switch to E15 from E10 currently, we would reduce 358,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year. That, according to the EPA is the same as removing 75,368 passenger vehicles from our roads annually. Just for the record, the total number of electric vehicles sold in the country last year was 116,099 units.

The internal combustion engine, for better or worse, is not going to be replaced on a mass scale anytime soon.

In the first two months of 2016, Toyota sold more Camrys (59,253 units) than all the units of the Tesla Model S that were sold for the whole of 2015 (25,202 units).

So if we are truly serious about reducing emissions from the transportation sector, it’s time to come down to reality.