One more industry is about to affix itself to the taxpayer’s already-abused wallet. The City of Austin is looking at plans to subsidize electric car charging stations, providing charge-ups on the taxpayer dime via the federal government.

This week the City of Austin will be considering (read: will likely approve) a proposal from Austin Energy setting a rate of $50 for a 12-month “subscription” for an unlimited car charging service at soon-to-be-installed tax-funded charging stations.  Over 100 charging stations are due to be set up by the end of the summer at City of Austin locations like libraries and recreation centers.

“Why?” you ask…  I think Karl R. Rabago, Austin Energy’s VP for Distributed Energy Services, sums it up nicely:

Research shows that customers simply won’t buy electric vehicles until they are confident that they fit their lifestyle.  So this federally funded initiative is a great way to jump start the electric vehicle market in our community by assuring easy access to electric charging services.

Let’s break that explanation down a bit.

1) Right now “consumers won’t buy electric vehicles” because they deem them impractical to their lifestyles. – So, no one wants to buy electric cars.

2) Because no one wants to buy electric cars, “this federally funded initiative is a great way to jump start the electric vehicle market.”  Basically, since the free market isn’t providing enough of a reason for people to buy these cars, the government is needed to manipulate the market until there is enough consumer confidence and demand to make purchases.

This program is irresponsible and wasteful. If the market wants charging stations, the market will provide it. Austin’s $50 per year all-you-can-eat electric car charging program where car owners can “charge up” wherever they like without limit amounts every collectively subsidizing electric car owners.

Ironically, electric cars — by definition — shouldn’t require a “jump start”, and neither should their market. If the people benefiting from the sale of the cars won’t invest in the infrastructure to make core-consumers confident about the product, it is troubling taxpayers would be asked to do so. Taxpayer subsidies become a narcotic that, once begun, is difficult to be weaned from.

Andrew Kerr is the Executive Director of Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility

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