EDITORIAL: Nissan’s 99 MPG smugmobile

Subsidized green cars waste a lot of greenbacks

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Practitioners of the green religion are ecstatic over last week’s Environmental Protection Agency decision to award the new Nissan Leaf an official “99 miles-per-gallon” rating for use on the showroom floor. This is a rather curious claim for a battery-powered vehicle that uses no gasoline. Federal officials intend to subtly imply with this “equivalent” mileage figure that the Leaf is three to four times better than ordinary, gas-powered automobiles.

There’s more than just deceptive government gimmicks at play, as the left has been using cars like the Leaf to make an all-out assault on our wallets. The Department of Energy, for example, ponied up $1.4 billion in taxpayer-subsidized loans so the Japanese manufacturer could update facilities in Smyrna, Tenn., where Leaf components are assembled. The Obama administration also lavished $100 million in “stimulus” funds on charging stations as a subsidy to the smug, well-to-do buyers of niche electric cars.

After all, with a base price of $32,780 plus $2,200 for a charging station, the Leaf is anything but cheap - especially compared to the otherwise equivalent $13,320 Ford Fiesta, which achieves 40 miles per gallon with a gasoline engine. Of course, those seeking to flaunt their green credentials with the trendiest vehicle of the moment can have federal and state taxpayers contribute up to $13,500 to reduce the purchase price. Electric cars have created the rent-seeker’s dream. With the Energy Department pouring $25 billion into green car pork, companies like Nissan and Government Motors are not alone at the trough. GE wants Uncle Sam to install Wattstation-brand charging units that, tellingly, the firm touts as being designed by “renowned industrial designer Yves Behar.” Appearances are very important to the green consumer.

The Leaf, for example, appears to be both economical and emissions-free. The true costs - the billions in subsidies - and the true emissions - those at mostly coal-fired power plants - are concealed from the end user. Washington state Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire announced in June that taxpayers around the country would subsidize the nation’s first “true electrified highway” to support the Leavespassing through the Evergreen State. This is part of a broader effort to install chargers along the 1,350-mile length of Interstate 5 from the Canadian to the Mexican border. In a Fiesta, it would require two fuel stops and $105 to complete the 20-hour journey.

By contrast, the Leaf could make the same trip using subsidized electricity for little or no fuel cost. Yet it isn’t so simple. According to the EPA-approved window sticker, the Leaf’s range was measured at 73 miles in a five-cycle test under varying conditions (not the oft-quoted 100-mile figure). So the Leaf would require 18 recharging stops lasting eight hours each, according to Nissan’s own figures using the type of chargers planned for I-5. That means the “environmentally responsible” trip would take six days and cost hundreds of dollars for stays in roadside motels of dubious quality.

State and federal governments somehow think the electric boondoggle is worth supporting with your money, while at the same time claiming that no funding is available to expand existing freeways to reduce congestion. Instead of subsidizing left-wing radicals, it’s time for politicians to concentrate on the roads that serve all Americans.

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