Lawmakers consider a state subsidy for EVs as prices approach parity with conventional cars

, , ,

Enticing people to buy electric vehicles does not fit comfortably into the core duties of state government. And yet it’s among the list of pet causes legislators will consider subsidizing with other people’s money. 

The latest effort comes in House Bill 1472. The bill, as amended, would confiscate $1.5 million that belongs to electric utility ratepayers in New Hampshire and give it to people who buy or lease electric vehicles. The money would come from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds currently rebated to ratepayers. 

The bill would facilitate this wealth transfer by creating a program through which EV buyers could claim rebates of $2,000 per fully electric vehicle and $1,000 per plug-in hybrid vehicle. Eligible vehicle sticker prices would be capped at $50,000 for cars and $80,000 for trucks, SUVs or commercial vans. 

Rebates would be available to individuals making no more than $75,000 a year, heads of household making no more than $112,500, and married couples making no more than $150,00 a year. The median household income in New Hampshire, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is $90,845. So HB 1472 would create a program through which moderate-and lower-income Granite Staters subsidize pricier-than-average car purchases for higher-income households. 

The idea behind this subsidy plan, as with most subsidies, is to use some people’s money to manipulate other people’s behavior. The beneficiary group in this case is middle-income car buyers. The victim group is everyone who uses electricity. To give middle-income car buyers up to $2,000 toward the purchase of a car that runs on electricity (mostly generated by nuclear fission or natural gas in New Hampshire), the scheme takes about $2 per year from the average residential electricity user. 

If timing is everything, then this bill is a party guest who arrives not three hours—but three years— late. The wealth transfer scheme comes amid a rapid decline in EV prices. 

Cox Automotive and Kelly Blue Book reported this month that EV prices fell 10.3% between January of 2023 and January of 2024. Prices for the Tesla Model Y, the best-selling EV in America, fell by 21% last year, from $63,000 to less than $50,000. 

EV prices are rapidly approaching price parity with conventional gas-powered vehicles. The price gap between EVs and conventional vehicles fell from 15% in 2022 to 8% in 2023 to just 4% at the start of 2024, according to industry news site CarEdge. At this rate, average EV prices could reach parity with conventional vehicle prices this year, which undermines any argument in favor of a subsidy. 

Federal subsidies and policies so distorted the EV market that automakers have built far more electric cars than consumers wanted. Though demand for EVs is rising, supply has risen far faster, leading manufacturers to slash prices to move excess inventory. Pushed to generate more EVs than consumers want at the moment, auto makers are losing billions of dollars on these government-favored vehicles. 

“Buyers looking to get a bargain on a new car might want to consider an electric vehicle,” The Wall Street Journal wrote in a news story on EV prices last November.

As a JD Power auto analyst explained to Newsweek in December: “Eventually manufacturers will achieve scale and profitability, but they are being pressured to accelerate the production of EVs at an unnatural rate due to various government initiatives.”

This is a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of market manipulation. As lawmakers consider proposals to add a state subsidy for EVs, and subsidize other favored products or activities, it’s one worth heeding.