Arethe Flaming Chariots of The Future?
The concept of the electric car as a solution to our environmental problems seems so simple at first glance. Get the gas guzzlers off the road and replace them with a nice emission free roadster. With one purchase all that environmental guilt washes right off while you smugly cruise into the future. It’s a nice thought, and not a wholly difficult conclusion to reach. The logical link between the cars we drive and the causes of climate change have been on the political agenda for decades now and here in the 2013 it remains. Cars emit greenhouse gasses, greenhouse gasses cause climate change. Despite it surprisingly not being the largest personal contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (buying plastic wrapped food takes that prize) transportation is still a significant factor in the race against time humanity has created for itself, and an electric car seems like a good solution to this burning problem. The question is: Is it a viable one as of 2013? While there are converts and corporations that have strong arguments on either side it seems that, sadly, the jury may yet be out on that one.
The reasons against buying an electric car in the year 2013 are not all that different than the reasons why a person living in the late 19th century would consider not buying one. It may surprise most readers to find out that the electric car is not a new idea; in fact it is an idea that is by many accounts older than the Model T. Its popularity fell while the combustion engines rose for reasons that are still factors today:
- The range of an electric car was and is simply not on par with that of the combustion motor.
Of course different sources discredit this a little, but regular motors have been making strides in fuel efficiency for years and it’s going to take time for electric cars to catch up with what its rival can offer.
- Gasoline was cheap and plentiful at the turn of the century and mass production reduced the cost of the combustion engine making it the more affordable car.
The fact that gas has dramatically risen in price over the last century doesn’t mean that this has necessarily become a point for the electric car. The truth is that estimates as of 2011 put the cost of owning and running an electric car at about $5,000 more than owning and operating a standard combustion car.
It is easier to extoll the virtues of the electric car. It runs smoother, cleaner, and probably cheaper. It reduces the human race’s dependence on crude oil, and companies that are pushing for the electric car like Tesla Motors believe that it all goes towards making the world a happier place to live in, and it’s certainly possible that they aren’t wrong. While it may not have the mileage that a combustion engine can produce the technology has nowhere to go but up. In time people who own electric cars seem poised to be on the right side of history. At this early stage of the game infrastructure is largely the problem, and that problem is that it hasn’t caught up with consumer needs.
The thing is that it’s a difficult proposition to sell the average person on due to the laundry list of negatives that go along with it, not the least of which is the stigma associated with owning a child’s Fisher Price corvette. If you are purely motivated by environmental advocacy and have some money to spend on something that will do wonders at breaking the ice at parties then an electric car is a good choice.
So in the end should the average driver buy an electric car? Has the future finally arrived driving a Tesla model S? The short answer is probably not yet. While it is one of those things that sound great in theory, at this point it’s best if it stays in the hands of the pioneers for the time being, but the culture is getting there and it’s really just a matter of time before we are all wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.
 Lee, Henry. (July, 2011). Will Electric Cars Transform the US Vehicle Market?. In Belfor Center. Retrieved November 18, 2013,
- Discount Loans for Electric Cars (revolution-green.com)
- Understanding Electric Car Buyers (14 Charts and Graphs) (gas2.org)
- Comparing Costs: Electric Cars, Hybrids, and Gasoline Cars (gas2.org)
- Electric cars advance in Detroit (reviews.cnet.com)