The electric car is one of those alternatively powered vehicles that technologically seems just within reach but somehow never is because of problems developing the batteries to power it.
A way to push past that obstacle is being floated, but unfortunately it requires government intervention. The Wall Street Journal reports that 14 U.S. technology companies, advised by the federal energy laboratories, are joining forces to build a plant to make advanced lithium-ion batteries and they want $1 billion in taxpayer money to do it.
The effort is similar to a government-financed consortium of companies formed in the 1980s that helped U.S. companies regain their edge in computer-chip design and manufacturing. According to the Journal, advanced battery technology developed here tends to be exploited in Asia because of manufacturing capability and access to markets for electric cars and, “Many experts believe battery technology and manufacturing capacity could become as strategically important as oil is today.” Great. We finally get viable electric vehicles with all the benefits their proponents claim, and we’re dependent on foreign batteries.
The Journal says China is building more than four-dozen advanced battery plants, and we have none. One day there may be a successful, affordable electric car powered by light, cheap, long-lasting batteries, and it would be great if we’re the ones who did it. But government has a spotty record in trying to force-feed new technologies, and it should not extend that failure rate in this market.