In the push to compel what they say is a “sustainable” energy future, progressive elected officials are jumping at the chance to use government force to promote their preferred policy agenda — banning vehicles powered by gasoline. And they are willing to hurt their own constituents to achieve these ends, even those struggling to get ahead economically.
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom, who announced he plans to run for president if President Biden does not run for a second term, mandated a state-wide ban on gas-powered vehicles by 2035, a target date recently echoed by his New York counterpart Kathy Hochul.
This massive government intervention forces every Californian and New Yorker — whether they can afford it or not — to purchase an electric or other similar vehicle. But the reality is that the average electric vehicle (EV) is still financially out of reach for most working families. As of this year, Kelley Blue Book found the average price of an electric car is $66,000, nearly $20,000 more than gas-powered cars.
Compare this to the median household income in California of $78,672 in 2020 and $71,117 in New York. Put another way, the average cost of an electric vehicle is about 84% of an entire household’s annual income in California and 93% in New York. Underserved communities, by definition, have it worse. For example, the median income for a Hispanic American household is $57,981, meaning a family at this income level would need to spend 114% of their yearly income to satisfy Newsom and his allies.
Although financing purchases has long been extremely common in the car market, these hard numbers remain illustrative of the financial burden that many families will be forced to bear. Anyone with bare-bones knowledge or experience with personal finance can attest that the larger the amount that people finance, the more they pay in interest, all else being equal.
Making it more difficult for working families to get ahead financially is short-sighted and plain wrong. And families in other states may soon face a similar burden. Currently, 17 states have long-standing laws that tie their vehicle emissions policies to California’s.
A drastic, all-in policy approach to electric vehicles is not realistic for the American people or economy. Even Toyota’s executive vice president of sales Jack Hollis determined, “For as much as people want to talk about EVs, the marketplace isn’t mature enough and ready enough … at the level we would need to have mass movement.”
In the electric vehicle market, companies like Toyota, Ford, and Stellantis, are just a few of the auto industry leaders taking a more measured approach to meeting climate goals. They continue to add to their electrified hybrid vehicle offerings as well as newer all-electric options. This holistic approach will ensure working families have access to affordable hybrid options, while wealthier Americans — who are the primary market for electric vehicles — still have access to their desired luxury EVs.
The balanced path offered by the marketplace also allows our country to expand EV infrastructure over time without removing resources from other desperately needed projects, like improving existing crumbling roads and supporting childhood education efforts.
The bleak reality of the zeal to use government as a blunt force against middle- and lower-income families was made clear in California and other western states, when — just days after Governor Newsom proclaimed his state-wide EV mandate — they were hit with record-breaking heat waves. To avoid rolling blackouts during the extreme temperatures, the state asked residents to “avoid charging and using major appliances during critical hours.”
If the state’s electric grid is struggling to keep up with the current number of EVs, what sorts of risks loom once every resident has to charge their cars to get to work or take their children to school? It is highly unrealistic to expect these electric conservation demands will be going away. While Newsom’s recent infrastructure measures spend heavily on New Green Deal-type projects, his administration lacks a comprehensive plan to bolster the state’s electric grid to realistically support its EV mandate.
Electric vehicles may have their future place secured, but they are not necessarily a magic bullet that some seem to think they are. For example, EVs use twice the energy and emit more CO2 during their manufacturing than gasoline-powered cars. And recycling EV batteries poses significant challenges and environmental hazards that are growing at a rapid scale. Ultimately, the “green” benefits of EVs only will materialize if all electricity sources to power these vehicles become renewable – a massive infrastructural overhaul that Americans just cannot afford anytime soon.
In the growing bipartisan concerns about our relationship with the Chinese authoritarian regime, there are national security issues about electric vehicle batteries, for example. Even with increased investments in domestic EV and chip production, more than 70% of lithium-ion batteries are produced in China. The fact is, we just don’t domestically have access to the necessary rare earth minerals for all-electric vehicles to be built at home.
In a time of distinct economic unease, it is incumbent among responsible leaders to put real effort into finding a path for policies that stress well-thought out, balanced, and responsible energy solutions that also do not make it much more difficult for working families to get ahead. Politicians who have no qualms about hurting economically disadvantaged families to force their own preferred outcome only creates more problems.
Mario H. Lopez is president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a non-partisan public policy advocacy organization that advances liberty, opportunity, and prosperity for all.