Diary

Retiree Makes Own Electric Car -- Becomes Tax Cheat and Enviro Criminal

A retiree from NASA who resides in Texas tinkering around with spare parts, a friend’s junked VW Beetle, with the sponsorship of a battery maker, invented his own electric car. It’s that ol’ American ingenuity at work (I won’t say Yankee ingenuity since the fellow is in Texas). We should applaud him, right? Not so fast.

Like you, I celebrate the garage inventor, the sort of creature that makes Apple computer a household name. I love the fact that as an American one can come up with an idea, build it, and maybe even get rich from it. But, let’s think about this story a bit, shall we? It becomes one of every good deed not going unpunished.

John Hendrickson lives in Manvel, Texas. Once he retired from that well known spendthrift government agency NASA, like many retirees, he needed something to work on so he wouldn’t lose his mind. So, after gassing up his Cadillic one day he had the idea of creating his own electric car.

“I thought gas stations were ripping us off, so I decided to just go build my own electric car,” Hendrickson said.

And so he did. Hendrickson even got a battery company to sponsor his efforts so that he didn’t have to spend the $300 per battery (his car runs on 12 of them) it would take to finish the project.

He built his electric car into an old VW that his friend was allowing to go to seed in his yard. It was rusted out and had tree roots entwined in its body.

But, after all the work he invented his own electric motor, got the batteries, had another sponsor do some body work and painting and, voila, he had a new electric car. Hendrickson has flipped the bird to those “rip-off” gasoline pushers! He’s become free of the system and showed his independence.

Now, at first blush we are apt to celebrate this ingenuity, right? So, why did I call him a tax cheat and an enviro criminal in my headline?

Well, let’s think about this for a minute.

Hendrickson is no longer buying gasoline, is he? So he isn’t paying the gas stations for their product. Great right? Well, what else is he not paying? You see, now he is not paying state and/or county gasoline taxes, money that ostensibly goes to the upkeep of roads and bridges. Yet, he’s still driving around using them , isn’t he? So tell me… why should he get free use of the roads the rest of us are paying taxes for?

So, right there he is cheating on taxes.

As to his eco crimes, well, one gets the vague feeling that electric cars are low on emissions, right? Sort of. You see, electric cars are charged by one’s home electric service. You plug them right into an outlet in your garage. This means that instead of gasoline engine emission being created to power the car, now coal powered plant emissions are used to power the car. And, to some minds, coal plant emissions are worse than car emissions. So, for those that imagine the environment is being “saved” by electric cars are being sorely misinformed — at least as far as the environmental purist argument turns.

You see, it isn’t nearly as simple as just inventing your own car and being done with it. It really is far more complicated than that. I hate to be a kill joy, here, but we need real world solutions for alternative energy, more creative and logical tax plans, and not just these sorts of panacea stories.

(Photo credit: chron.com)