The Watertown City Council should reject a proposal by National Grid to install an electric car charging station in the city at taxpayer expense.
The utility has received taxpayer funds through the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority to install stations in 70 municipalities across the state at a cost of about $6,500 each. The city is being asked to provide a spot to charge two vehicles. It would also pick up 10 percent of the tab plus supply free electricity to electric car drivers, if there are any in the city.
The electric car industry is already the recipient of massive subsidies from manufacturing and production to the $7,500 credit to buyers in an attempt to create a market that might not exist without the subsidies. Even so, electric cars are not cost competitive. Sales have failed to match national expectations. Some manufacturers have suspended production. Battery makers have run into financial trouble and forced to close.
A government giveaway to electric car owners turned out to be too costly in forfeited parking fees at Los Angeles Airport. It pulled the plug on free parking at charging stations in some of its lots where space was being filled for weeks at a time by some travelers taking advantage of the government freebie to avoid paying fees in other lots.
The proposed Watertown stations are not a response to consumer demand locally. Nor would they be expected to attract a lot of electric car drivers to the city. All-electric cars have a short driving range while hybrids can switch to gasoline, and both can be charged at home by the owners.
City officials rightly question why taxpayers paying up to $3.70 a gallon to fill their gas tanks without subsidy should pay for electric car owners to drive their vehicles.