What electric vehicle proponents aren’t telling you

Electric cars have been presented as a cleaner, cheaper future, but there’s another side of the story

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week requested $113 million to build demand for electric vehicles in Michigan. It’s just a down payment on the mass of build-outs and subsidies to come over the next decade, as Michigan tries to get two million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

That would require a massive leap in demand. In 2021, only 17,500 electric vehicles were registered in the state, out of 8.7 million vehicles.

The road to two million will not be cheap. Whitmer has even spoken of the need for “electrified roads,” though neither of the two budgets she has proposed since making those remarks has funded the project.

And the road to two million EVs will not be organic. It won’t happen because these are the vehicles people want, can afford, and choose to buy. It will happen if — and only if — state and federal government officials continue to offer lavish subsidies to EV buyers. Given the cost of electric vehicles, and America’s median income of about $70,000, these subsidies will benefit the rich.

The feds are offering $7,500 rebates right now to buyers of certain EVs (though not $110,000 Hummers, President Biden). Whitmer’s 2024 budget seeks $48 million over two years for sales and use tax exemptions for EV buyers. How much more taxpayer money will be burned to promote the type of engines Lansing and Washington prefer?

Whitmer seeks another $65 million for charging stations and other EV infrastructure.

When Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow said last summer that she “went by every single gas station and it didn’t matter how high it was,” referring to gas prices above $5, that was a misrepresentation of the cost trade-off of EVs.

First, gas is not always that high; it rarely is.

Second, charging costs money, too. People who get a charging station installed in their homes will trade the gas station bills for higher energy bills. This comes as DTE Energy is moving to peak-hour pricing. Will people wait until after 7 p.m. to charge their EVs, or will they eat the higher cost that comes from peak-hour pricing? Decisions, decisions.

Third, gas tanks take a minute or two, tops, to fill. EVs can take a half-hour to charge, at least until we get those electrified roads. That’s fine when you’re at home resting, but how about at the end of a long trip?

Freedom of movement is another concern. Michigan’s electric grid is shaky in the best of times. Meanwhile, it is moving away from coal and toward more wind and solar. Add two million EVs to the system and it’s hard to see how this goes well.

During a 2020 heat wave in California, EV users were asked to not plug in their vehicles during peak hours. Do you want the energy company deciding whether you can plug in and go?

EVs also come with moral and environmental trade-offs. Producing EVs requires mining an limited supply of materials, at a time when global demand is the highest. That mining itself brings atrocities and labor conditions that would never be approved by OSHA. We don’t see the people and the animals this affects, but it does affect them.

People should get the type of car, or no car, that works for them. But the electric vehicle confers no high ground. It comes with trade-offs, like everything else.

Buy EVs if you like. Don’t ask me or my 10 million neighbors to pay for them.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.