Vail Daily editorial: Is this promotion necessary? |

Vail Daily editorial: Is this promotion necessary?

the Vail Daily Editorial Board

Officials from around Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties gathered last week to kick off what they’re calling “REV Up Your Ride,” an effort to sell more electric and gas-electric hybrid vehicles in the region.

The idea behind the promotion is a good one. Modern electric cars and hybrids are brilliant pieces of engineering which run more cleanly than cars powered only by fossil fuels. But do we really need government help to put more drivers in these vehicles?

Let’s start with price.

The base price of a BMW i3 is more than $48,000. Even with hefty state and federal tax credits and a $3,000 dealer discount, this is a premium-priced vehicle. It also has an estimated range of 118 miles. That means a trip between, say, Gypsum and Grand Junction will require a charge. In fact, the car might not make the one-way trip.

That’s the case with many all-electric vehicles. Even electric vehicles with the best claimed range won’t make a round trip from Vail to Denver International Airport without stopping for more electricity. Even in the best case — Tesla’s Superchargers — it’s more time-consuming than a simple fill-up with gasoline.

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Again, modern electric vehicles are fantastic. They don’t make sense on the Western Slope as someone’s sole or primary vehicle, unless that vehicle is used only for commuting.

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron Hatchback is a full hybrid, meaning it has less battery range and can be refueled at any gas station. That means a trip to, say, Zion National Park from this area is as simple as getting in, gassing up and going.

Again, though, this is a premium-priced product, with a base price of nearly $42,000.

There’s nothing wrong with premium-priced products, but why should anyone else subsidize their purchase?

Another problem with these vehicles — as well as lower-priced vehicles from Toyota, Chevrolet and Nissan — is their higher initial prices than conventional vehicles simply can’t be recovered in fuel savings in a reasonable amount of time.

Given the initial cost and long payback on the initial investment, these vehicles seem more like statements about the eco-virtue of their owners than true transportation alternatives.

Using less fuel is good. Using cars that put fewer fumes into the air is good. But those goals simply don’t make sense for most car buyers at current prices, with or without subsidies.

That’s what makes this promotion seem well-intentioned, but ill-conceived.

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