Jonathan Chait

Non-Triumph Of The Will

By

George Will devoted his Sunday column to sneering at the Chevy Volt:

The Volt was conceived to appease the automotive engineers in Congress, which knows that people will have to be bribed, with other people's money, to buy this $41,000 car that seats only four people (the 435-pound battery eats up space).

Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said in a letter to the Wall Street Journal: "The early enthusiastic consumer response - more than 120,000 potential Volt customers have already signaled interest in the car, and orders have flowed since the summer - give us confidence that the Volt will succeed on its merits." Disregard the slipperiness ("signaled interest" how?) and telltale reticence (how many orders have "flowed"?). But "on its merits"? Why, then, the tax credits and other subsidies?

Somewhat awkwardly for Will, Motortrend has a slightly different view, it announced today:

The Volt absolutely delivers on the promise of the vehicle concept as originally outlined by GM, combining the smooth, silent, efficient, low-emissions capability of an electric motor with the range and flexibility of an internal combustion engine.

It is a fully functional, no-compromise compact automobile that offers consumers real benefits in terms of lower running costs.

The more we think about the Volt, the more convinced we are this vehicle represents a real breakthrough. The genius of the Volt's powertrain is that it is actually capable of operating as a pure EV, a series hybrid, or as a parallel hybrid to deliver the best possible efficiency, depending on your duty cycle. For want of a better technical descriptor, this is world's first intelligent hybrid. And the investment in the technology that drives this car is also an investment in the long-term future of automaking in America.

Moonshot. Game-changer. A car of the future that you can drive today, and every day. So what should we call Chevrolet's astonishing Volt? How about, simply, Motor Trend's 2011 Car of the Year.

Will sneers at "the automotive engineers in Congress," though apparently his own automotive engineering sensibility towers above Motor Trend. Why has he been been denying us his expert automobile criticism?

Of course, the main problem with Will's critique is that it elides the fundamental premise. There's an electric car subsidy in order to jump-start the market for electric cars, which can then create efficiencies of scale. All of this is premised on the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But Will, who also sees through the scientific consensus on climate change, sees no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, either. So obviously, from the climate science denier point of view, any expenditure designed to reduce carbon emissions is wasteful. Arguing about which particular anti-climate change intervention passes the cost-benefit analysis when you start from Will's premises is fairly pointless.

Loading Related Articles...
Article Tools
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

You must be a subscriber to post comments. Subscribe today.