GM Volt and Binghamton University: as useless as a tit on a bull

Sometimes there are revelations that hit, moments of utter clarity, that put things directly into focus. Today 2 pieces of news provided us with that clarity.

Binghamton University announced that they have 3 electric car charging stations that have been installed at the college. The stations will be available for the faculty and students only. The cost for using the charging stations is $100 – which will cover unlimited charges until August 2012. In addition there is the regular fee of $1 – $6 for parking in the garage (based on time) where the charging stations are located.

The cost of the charging stations was $13,500. The funds were taken from the budget of the Binghamton University police department. The goal was to confirm the “green” efforts of BU.

The other news was that sales of the GM Volt for the month of July were exactly 125 (10 less than needed to break even for the charging stations created at BU). In total, since GM restarted operations after the Government took over and mandated the creation of the $41,000 electric car (that is built on the shell of a regular $16,000 GM car), less than 3,900 have been sold. That’s the total for the entire nation, for 9 months. The most Volt’s ever sold in 1 month is 680. That’s with a government rebate of $7500 for buying the electric car.

Seperate of that, a few other facts:

According to a report in the Chicago Sun Times

“In fact, all categories of new-car intenders are reporting less likelihood of even considering the vehicle.”

According to the Harvard Advocate,

“Green cars in July were down 24 percent from the same period last year (although there was a modest bump from June). If you look at just the battery biggies, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt and Smart Electric Drive, they were down a pretty large 53.4 percent from June.

Further, consider this (as reported by CNN Money)

GM loses money on every Volt and is unlikely ever to recover a penny of its estimated $1 billion development cost…

Best of all, we found that according to Auto Express,

“We looked at the source of energy used for charging, and found a plug-in vehicle can do greater harm to the environment than a conventional model. Our calculations show …in electric-only mode, Chevrolet’s new Volt clocks up 124.2g/km – more than a BMW 118d!”

Thus, electric cars can be as ‘problematic’ (as those who believe in global warming see it) as any other car, once you factor in the carbon emission from electric power plants – most of which in the US are run on coal.

Now what does all this mean at Binghamton University?

From what we can derive from the various news, the University has taken money from the safety of its student body (which the campus police budget provides) and given it to a concept that is popular with Liberals in theory and otherwise proving to be useless. We conclude that even if there was a move by students at BU to become more “green” with their vehicles (which is not apparent according to sales figures), the limited number of charging stations would make the purchase inefficient at best. The effort to be more “green” may very well be useless when all the factors involved in the creation and function of an electric car is added up.

We realize that some of the eco-fanatical will mention that there are other “green” vehicles besides the GM Volt. That the other styles have different costs and greenhouse efficiencies. That this is the wave of the future.

In fact the general question of electric cars was reviewed by the EPA as Solve Climate News stated in 2010,

“Based on GHG emissions from today’s national average electricity generation (including GHG emissions associated with feedstock extraction, processing, and transportation) and other key assumptions related to vehicle electricity consumption, vehicle charging losses, and grid transmission losses, a midsize EV might have an upstream GHG emissions of about 180 grams/mile, compared to the upstream GHG emissions of a typical midsize gasoline car of about 60 grams/mile,” the EPA writes.

Wave of the future it may well be, one day. That day is not tomorrow. Considering the cost of each vehicle is up to the consumer, and as sales reports show, consumers aren’t buying. Which may be an indication of how useful these vehicles really are (like the reports that state cold and hot climates reduce the effective length of the charge – and Binghamton is a cold place most of the year).

We are using the Volt for a specific reason though. It highlights the folly of a Government mandate that the public realizes is not in their best interest – at least not until the technology is proven, cost-effective, and worthwhile. It highlights the problems of the Government involvement in public companies. It reflects the issue that the Government is willing to waste billions of taxpayer dollars (unless GM can miraculously increase its share price by more than double, before the Treasury sells its stake in the stock as it is currently planning to do), just to advance a political opinion that is not accepted by the majority of the nation.

Less than 4,000 vehicles sold in a dealership may be great, but for a total in the nation it is a failure. $13,500 may be a drop in the bucket for the BU budget, even for the police department, but it means something is being sacrificed – in this case safety. We see that as a failure in judgement at BU. The ability to tout a Liberal ideaology seems anything but worth the total cost.

Thus we return to the title of this commentary. Spending money, that is needed for a valid and crucial reason, to appeal to a theoretical concept that less than a minority of people accept seems worse than wasteful. It is as feckless as it is feeble, neither providing a real impetus for change nor improving anything but the regard of Liberals that value this superficial act over substantive action.

About the Author

Michael Vass
Born in 1968, a political commentator for over a decade. Has traveled the U.S. and lived in Moscow and Tsblisi, A former stockbroker and 2014 Congressional candidate. Passionate about politics with emphasis on 1st and 2nd Amendments.

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