- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wealthy liberals love nothing better than flaunting their enlightened attitudes. They see the selection of a trendy set of wheels as a great way to advertise their concern for the survival of polar bears. At the top of the must-have list for the self-enlightened is the Chevy Volt.

This $40,000 plug-in hybrid can travel 35 miles on battery power, a feat enabling smug owners - their average annual salary is $175,000 - to pretend that their emissions are pure. Of course, instead of coming out the tailpipe, the unwanted carbon-dioxide molecules are instead released at the power plant, which is generally coal-fired well outside their view. The well-heeled also enjoy the belief that their plug-in technology is modernly superior to anything else on the road, even though companies like Waverly Electric Motor Vehicles and Columbia Electric Vehicles produced cars with better range than the Volt in the year 1901.

It didn’t catch on then, and it won’t catch on now because electric cars makes zero economic sense. Car & Driver tested the Volt’s capabilities against the Chevy Cruze, a gas-powered car built on the same platform. The magazine found a Volt buyer would save $8,089 on gasoline over the vehicle’s lifetime, but only after paying $23,000 extra for the privilege of wearing a green halo. That figure doesn’t take into account up to $11,000 in incentives kicked in by state and federal taxpayers. It also doesn’t count the billions Uncle Sam has thrown to Government Motors in bailouts and manufacturing grants.

All of that cash is being poured into something potentially hazardous. On May 12, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performed a side-impact crash test on a Volt. Three weeks later, the damaged test car not only burned to the ground, but it took three nearby vehicles with it.

Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, told reporters earlier this month that the company wasn’t backing down. “This remains a halo car for us,” said Mr. Reuss. “It is a breakthrough.” If it’s such a breakthrough, consumers would be flocking to it. But they aren’t, despite the government’s throwing five-figure bribes at potential buyers. Rep. Mike Kelly filed a bill last month to put a stop to those taxpayer subsidies for trendy hybrid and electric vehicles. “It isn’t ‘government’ money,’ it’s taxpayer money,” Mr. Kelly told The Washington Times.

Mr. Kelly knows first-hand how much dust a Volt gathers sitting unwanted on the lot because he owns a Chevrolet dealership. “There’s no public demand for the Volt,” the Pennsylvania Republican explained. “This is the administration’s demand to the auto company they bailed out to produce something.”

The federal government has no business using tax dollars to decide which products the public should or should not be allowed to buy. Washington’s culture of crony capitalism needs to come to an end, and grounding electric-car subsidies would be a great start.