Free electric cars shows what happens when legislation goes wrong

You may have seen reports about how you can get a free $6,500 electric runabout thanks to the government's energy tax credit for what they call Neighborhood Electric Vehicles. The first time you encounter a golf cart merrily clogging traffic as it putts down the street 10 mph below the speed limit, though, you might not think so highly of this "bargain".

The vehicle in question here is Drive Electric's NEV-48 EV, a golf-cart-like, open-sided, four-wheeled, two-seater with a top speed of 25 mph. The company claims that current legislation (which changes Jan. 1) will cover the entire purchase price of $6,496.53 (shipping and sales tax extra).
The idea of using tax credits to inspire us to embrace electric vehicles isn't the villain in this scenario. I blame those who drafted the regulations, though, for this loophole that threatens to turn all of America's streets into Sun City cart paths. If we've learned anything about the American driver through 50 years of incentives and disincentives, it's that very few of us would tolerate a top end of 25 mph, much less an open-air ride.

Such rides work fine in gated communities in states that don't experience the cold and snow of winter. But put one on a public street in Chicago, Washington or Boston and you have a recipe for disaster; at best, a disastrous traffic snarl; at worst, a collision in a vehicle that affords almost no protection.

If the intent of this legislation is to convince drivers to replace their petroleum rides with electric, I rate this a big fail. In places where electric golf carts are a practical form of transportation, they are already widely adopted, and I'm guessing that most owners keep a gasoline car in the garage to use for trips of any significant distance.

Tax money spent to gift these carts isn't going to improve the environment. We might do better by giving away free horses.
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