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No Volts for Electric Cars in Snowy Weather

4:16 PM, Jan 28, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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At the Washington Post, Charles Lane points out how Washington's recent winter weather woes provide another reason why electric cars--and government subsidization thereof--are a bad idea:

Count me among the many thousands of Washington area residents who spent Wednesday night stuck in traffic as a snowstorm sowed chaos all around us. Being car-bound in sub-freezing weather for six hours can make a guy think. I counted my blessings. The situation could have been worse, I realized: My fellow commuters and I could have been trying to make it home in electric cars, like the ones President Obama is constantly promoting, most recently in his State of the Union address.

It is a basic fact of physical science that batteries run down more quickly in cold weather than they do in warm weather, and the batteries employed by vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt are no exception....

Carmakers say they are on top of these issues. General Motors has tested the Volt's battery in cold conditions and says it includes a margin of reserve power for such weather. Indeed, the Volt comes equipped with a backup internal combustion engine, so you need never fear, as long as the tank is full of premium gas (the only kind a Volt can use). Of course, burning gas rather defeats the "green" purpose of the $41,000 (before federal tax rebate) four-seat car. But at least you won't die of exposure on the road.

As for the Leaf, which touts a 100-mile range under optimum conditions (i.e., mild weather and no big hills like the ones I had to negotiate on 16th Street), Nissan is designing a "cold weather package" of options. But neither the cost nor the availability date has been announced.

Jonathan V. Last wrote in THE WEEKLY STANDARD last October on several other reasons why we should be skeptical of the electric car and the federal government's efforts to make us buy them.

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