Nfld. & Labrador

Andy Wells criticizes St. John's electric car project

Former St. John's mayor Andy Wells is calling on the city to reconsider its electric car pilot project, mocking the plan as a sop to the guilt-ridden "eco-affluent."

City's plan to buy 2 electric cars appeals to guilt of living in 'fossil-duel-dependent society'

St. John's council may be buying two Nissan Leaf electric vehicles, pictured above, for a pilot project. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Former St. John's mayor Andy Wells is calling on the city to reconsider its electric car pilot project, mocking the plan as a sop to the guilt-ridden "eco-affluent." 

Earlier this month, council said it plans to buy two electric vehicles for its parking enforcement staff, and intends to build charging stations that will be open to the public.

Wells, who was mayor between 1997 and 2008 and has since been the chair of the Public Utilities Board, told council in a letter that combustion engine vehicles are clearly better.

He also dismissed the battery-operated vehicles as "yuppie bling."

He wrote that the U.S. Congressional Budget Office found electric vehicles are a waste of money, and that gasoline would have to rise to $6 US a gallon for them to make sense.

"My own conclusion is that EVS are 'driveway jewelry' for the eco-affluent, who benefit from public subsidy to indulge their guilt about living in a fossil-fuel-dependent society," he wrote.

Another councillor, Wally Collins, has also previously spoken out against the pilot project, saying it was a waste of taxpayers' money.

Former St. John's mayor Andy Wells has written a letter, criticizing the city's plan to buy electric cars and install public charging stations. (CBC)

Dave Lane, a city councillor who has publicly supported the electric car project, said criticisms made by Wells and Collins are understandable, but he thinks the city's plan is still sound.

"They're being cautious, and I think that's a fair point," he said.

Lane said the city is also being cautious by just testing out a pilot project to see how things go.

"We're just trying two of them so we can make a better decision going forward," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show Monday.

In an interview with CBC News Monday, Wells said Coun. Dave Lane is incorrect in saying that car companies are selling plenty of electric cars.

"Either he's deliberately misleading tax payers or he does not know the reality," Wells said. 

"It does not make economic sense, and therefore does not make social sense."

Wells said he decided to speak out on this council debate because he felt the case against electric cars had "merit."

"Why [doesn't] Mr. Lane for example, buy an electric car and run it for a couple of years — three of four years — and tell us what his experience has been," Well said.

The former mayor's letter is expected to be presented at council Monday.

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