Yesterday, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker announced that the city was going to install eight stations in and around downtown where people can plug-in and recharge their hybrid-electric cars. Really forward thinking of him, right?
A couple of problems:
1. No one is driving these cars yet. Plug-in hybrids aren't set to be put into production until late 2010 or many are thinking realistically 2011 given the problems with the auto manufacturers.
2. Plug in-hybrids aren't affordable. Conservative estimates put the price tag of one of these cars at $35,000 or more.
So what we have here is Meeker continuing his pattern of subsidies for rich, downtown elites (who else can afford a $35,000 car that only goes 20-30 miles before needed a charge)? Spend $1 million on a white-table cloth restaurant downtown and its $12 lettuce wedge, excellent! $3 billion for a light rail system for the 3 percent of rich, white folks who are too good to ride the bus, sure! What's another few thousands to build stations for cars that nobody is driving yet and few will be able to afford?
A larger problem is Meeker's insistence that government take the lead in installing the stations, crowding out the private market before the private market even exists. Why not wait and let private industry come and pay the City for the privilege to install the stations? Or let a private business (hello Progress Energy?) seek out service agreements with private enterprise on the placement of stations?
Meeker's not putting the cart before the horse with this plan, he's building a cart before the horse even exists.