Frame from 'Running on E,' Full Measure segment on electric cars, Dec 2015Enlarge Photo
"Billions of your tax dollars were spent to put a million electric cars on the road by the end of this year. You might be outraged when you hear what happened."
Sounds shocking, doesn't it?
Also perhaps vaguely reminiscent of 2011 and 2012, when uninformed, context-free, and factually-wrong "news" stories emerged about the Chevrolet Volt and, by extension, any electric car?
Well, as they say, "It's baaaaaack!"
The December 6th episode of Full Measure, which calls itself "a broadcast focusing on investigative, original and accountability reporting," covered the topic of electric cars in a segment titled "Running on E."
The show says it's "dedicated to pursuing Untouchable Subjects through Fearless Reporting"; it's produced by and airs on the Sinclair Broadcast Network. (We might suggest it could use a proofreader or two for stray capitalization.)
Tesla Supercharger site with photovoltaic solar panels, Rocklin, California, Feb 2015Enlarge Photo
Electric-car advocates are likely to question the episode's allusions to "government waste" and "outrage" over a policy goal, which is supported by financial incentives from both Federal and state governments, that hasn't been achieved on schedule.
The 7-minute segment starts at 10:21 in the 23-minute episode. "Now we turn to green energy and taxpayer waste," intones the announcer in the lead-in.
It opens on President Obama's green-energy goals, supported by $36 billion in the Recovery Act. Among the goals was putting 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by the end of 2015.
The number of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars on U.S. roads will be slightly over 400,000 at the end of this month, according to data aggregated by HybridCars.com.
The segment first turns to Tesla Motors, which it calls "a success story" for paying back its 2010 low-interest loan from the Department of Energy several years ahead of schedule.
Of almost $9 billion in low-interest DoE loans to car and parts makers, the department ultimately lost $139 million on a $529 million loan to Fisker Automotive.
Fisker's new Wilmington Plant (aerial view)
Tesla repaid its $465 million loan ahead of schedule, and Ford and Nissan are current in their payments on loans of $5.9 billion and $1.6 billion respectively.
Oddly, the program lumps the DoE low-interest loans together with Federal income-tax credits for buyers of plug-in cars, and gives the total Federal support for electric cars as $7.5 billion.
Then a reporter takes a Volkswagen e-Golf for a test drive in Boston, noting that the $7,500 Federal incentive is joined by a Massachusetts incentive of $2,500 more.
The selection of the e-Golf isn't explained; a Nissan Leaf, the electric car with the highest total U.S. sales, might have been a more logical choice.
Then the program shifts to Greg Sullivan, now with the Pioneer Institute think tank, who "helped root out taxpayer waste" as the inspector general of Massachusetts.
Note the implicit connection between financial incentives to encourage a policy and "government waste"?