Note these items from the Financial Times:
1. Peugeot and Mitshubishi enter an electric car alliance, striving toward plug-in hybrid vehicles. The same article notes that Bosch and Samsung have entered into an alliance to develop better lithium-ion batteries.
2. Ford and GM call on the federal government to support plug-in hybrid development; from a speech at a Google/Brookings plug-in hybrid conference last week:
Ford Motor has joined General Motors in calling for direct US government intervention to boost the market for plug-in electric vehicles, which Detroit’s carmakers fear could become dominated by Asian manufacturers.
Mark Fields, head of Ford’s Americas business, said that government should be a “key partner in promoting American manufacturing” of plug-in cars and the lithium-ion batteries that power them through tax incentives, research subsidies and other measures.
“A business case will not evolve, in the near term, without support from Washington,” Mr Fields said on Wednesday in a speech at Washington DC.
Really? Really? Does he mean that $4 gas, which has torpedoed the market for Hummer, isn’t shifting consumer demand sufficiently to create a near-term business case for plug-in hybrid R&D?
Did he say that with a straight face?
The Department of Energy made a big deal of the hand-out, announcing it at a plug-in hybrid conference in Washington D.C., but c’mon — $30 million? To be spread out among three companies over three years? What’d it do — scrounge change from couch cushions in the Pentagon? EV advocates were quick to thank Uncle Sam for the money but said it’s going to take a whole lot more than that to wean us from oil — which, by the way, will collect $17 billion in tax breaks during the next decade.
Toyota is getting right to it, and will release a plug-in in two years. Other aforementioned companies are also proceeding with plug-in R&D.
Why are Ford and GM pleading to the government for subsidies? They have made horrendous business decisions, and now they are suffering the consequences. [snark]It didn’t take long for the business case for some of those bad decisions to evolve, did it!?![/snark] Are they really so behind the curve, and is the overall social benefit so large, that taxpayer money should subsidize their previous bad business acumen? I say no.
I agree with Squatriglia that the oil company tax concessions should not exist, but I can’t see the economic argument for spending taxpayer money to subsidize research that other companies are already voluntarily performing.