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Battery Costs Crush Hybrid Faith

Forget precious metals like gold and silver. Billionaire Warren Buffet is investing in lithium because unprecedented quantities of this metal will soon be required for electric and hybrid car batteries.

But before you take out that second mortgage to invest, consider the potential for the whole venture to implode. Yes, the value of lithium will rise as governments respond to green activists by “encouraging” auto companies to produce more electric and hybrid cars. But at some point the increasing cost of lithium will drive the price of these vehicles out of reach for the consumer.

While the prices of other technologies like home computers and cell phones plummet as production skyrockets, the electric/hybrid alternative is destined to become a victim of its own success, unless of course government steps in.

A run-of-the-mill hybrid battery is currently triple the cost of a gasoline engine, about $8,000. Raw materials comprise 70 per cent of this cost. And in the two months leading up to the Copenhagen conference, the price of American lithium rose 100 per cent. Experts predict a 600 per cent increase by the end of 2010.

How much do you really want to pay just to reduce your CO2 emissions? Triple? Quadruple? If the experts are right, keep going…

There are a lot of reasons to not buy an electric or hybrid car: lack of performance, lack of range, lack of towing and carrying capacity; basically lack of everything you buy a car for. Sure, engineers could put in larger batteries, but that will only accelerate the demise of electric and hybrid cars by increasing demand for lithium.

Take for example the high-performance 2010 GM Volt hybrid. Its lithium battery costs a whopping $21,000. Let me stress, that’s just for the battery at today’s price for lithium.

It would be one thing if there was a payoff in the cost per mile travelled. There is not. A whole slough of gas-powered automobiles do as well or better than hybrids, and diesels consistently beat hybrids in fuel efficiency. And yet, “hybrid faith” is sweeping the Western world.

Combining a small internal combustion engine with a generator and an electric motor can hardly be considered innovative. But desperate automobile manufacturers have dubbed this combination of century-old technologies “hybrid electric technology.” It’s like calling yourself a “hybrid vegetarian” because you sometimes eat vegetables.

Are electric and hybrid-electric cars even viable? While we’re on the topic, how about windmills and solar panels? Sadly, science says not by a long shot. Will they ever be viable? That’s where green marketing gurus step in and assure us, we’re headed in the right direction!

It’s also where government will probably step in and, as only government can do, distort the rules of the marketplace. Translation: you’ll someday be paying for the lion’s share of your self-righteous neighbour’s car, whether you like it or not, through a lithium subsidy. And that’s precisely what savvy investors like Buffet are counting on.

Green marketers claim battery technology will someday allow you to charge your battery in less than 20 minutes and travel up to 500 miles on a single charge! When will this happen? Don’t be such a skeptic! We’re heading in that direction and that’s all that matters. Till then, shut up and pay your taxes! Feel better now?

Facts and science no longer matter in this debate. That should be reason enough to quit wasting public money developing hybrid-electric cars. Add in the undeniable fact that the more batteries made, the more astronomical their real cost will be, and you have to wonder, what’s driving this insanity?

Mischa Popoff is a freelance political writer with a bachelor’s degree in history. He lives in B. C.

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