Your letters: Electric automobiles
Paper Edition | Page: 8
This is a comment in respect to the article titled “Govt embarks on a bumpy ride with electric automobiles” published on July 24 (page 3).
It once again looks as though the government of Indonesia has got itself a tiger by the tail and doesn’t know how to let go.
Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa referred to electric cars as “green cars”. This is a misnomer. The only “green” thing about electric cars is that they have the potential to reduce inner-city air pollution. But, remember that instead of burning petrol or compressed gas, the electricity necessary to power electric cars is coming from dirty coal-burning power stations so the net emissions of pollutants will be greater than burning petrol.
I believe the government’s commitment to electric cars is premature. The huge subsidies being paid for fuel for private motorists, together with the similarly huge subsidies for electricity, means that the energy market is totally artificial and market forces are not being allowed to operate. Without fuel subsidies, the market would quickly seek out viable energy-saving transportation (e.g. hybrid engines, biofuel engines) just as the elimination of electricity subsidies to PLN would open up a whole new world of alternative renewable energy sources, greatly enhancing the options for private investment in energy.
Electric vehicles have their place in modern cities but they only really justify their existence environmentally if their electricity is sourced from renewable energy, such as geothermal, solar and wind. If an electric car industry develops and is dependent upon subsidized electricity to make it viable, then the government will be stuck with increasing the already non-sustainable subsidies to PLN.
The government could be doing many more useful things for the people than indulging in a fanciful electric-car project at this point in time. I suspect that this may well be another gimmick for the 2014 election — like the monorail project — and will have the same fate as the monorail. Maybe this is a reincarnation of Tommy Soeharto’s “Timor” car; it will certainly encounter many of the same obstacles.
If conditions are right, there may come a time when private enterprise takes up the idea but while the government drives it forward, it is guaranteed that yet another tranche of subsidies will be needed to keep the thing alive.
The best solution might be for the government to pull the plug on the electric car while it still can and save Indonesia from another embarrassing white elephant. When will they ever learn?