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You’ve seen them around, probably hybrids anyway. They’re going to improve the fleet gas mileage averages of all the car companies. Yes, the electric car is coming. By the time they get popular about half of them will drive themselves. I have 10 reasons not to want one, despite all that.
Now, I have driven a hybrid. It was in 2008, and the car rental company got me to try it. The car was funny looking and visibility out was poor. It didn’t have a real key and you had to push a button to start it. But it was OK to drive around town in, or so I thought.
I had some fun in the thing, I have to admit. Parking in a big parking garage, I spent some time cruising around on battery alone. The fun thing was, people would be walking in the lane and you could ease up behind them and they wouldn’t know you were there.
But the first week, I had trouble with this hybrid car. It was functioning normally, but so was I. I’d pull out of the motel lot and into one of 3 westbound lanes of traffic, with the gas engine going because you have to do that fast. Then the traffic light would stop me and the engine would die. At that moment my stomach would go thud, as panic set in and traffic backed up behind me. Of course, the car wasn’t off, I could drive off with no problem–I just wasn’t accustomed to the car turning itself off and on.
(At least I wasn’t like my great-grandfather, 100 years earlier. He bought a car in 1905. He was quite old by then and had always driven horses. So when he went barreling down a road and came to a curve, he pulled back on the steering mechanism to slow down, hollering “WHOA!” And ran right off the road.)
No, not quite as bad. But anyway, here is why I don’t believe I want an electric car.
1–They’re expensive. I can barely afford my gas burning car, and mine gets really good mileage for an all wheel drive SUV. The electric ones are nearly twice the cost of a regular car to buy. And wait till you see what new batteries for the things will cost to replace. Not only that, those fancy regenerative braking systems won’t be cheap, and they’ll wear.
2–Electric cars won’t have waste heat. Good, you say. Well, in Florida that won’t be much of a problem. But up here in northern New England, it’s a different story. We shiver as we drive gas cars while the engine warms up, waiting for the heater to work. Once it does, we’re good to go. An electric car will have to divert power from moving itself to making heat for the people in it. How much? Well, a lot when it’s 20 below out.
3–Diverted power is lost power. In an electric car, where some of the electricity is used to make heat, there’s less power available to push through the slop on the road. Or climb a hill. Or get all the way home, if it comes to that. If an electric car can go 240 miles at highway speed on one charge, is that a flat 240 miles, and if so, what are hills going to cost? A drive in the mountains sure won’t be 240 miles on a charge.
4–Electricity is expensive, and not as clean as you think. Again, I am in northern New England, where we have very expensive electric rates. So it wouldn’t be cheap to run a car on electricity. In fact, it might cost more to go the same number of miles. Not only that, just because electricity doesn’t smell funny, give off smoke, or make you glow in the dark, doesn’t mean it doesn’t come from something that does. Also, owners will have to pay extra taxes to use roads, because they aren’t paying gas tax.
5–Electric cars are sneaky. They’re so quiet all you hear is the tires snapping over an occasional rock. You can’t even tell they’re on, really. So how do you know that you’ve turned it off so it doesn’t run down without going anywhere?
6–Once you get where you’re going, how do you refuel? You can’t just plug it in anywhere. You have to pay for the electricity, and it takes longer to recharge batteries than it does to fill a tank. It may even have its own kind of plug that needs a special receptacle. The infrastructure isn’t there for these cars, not even remotely. They’re very limited as to where you can take them. And if you have a Tesla and they don’t have a Tesla plug-in in town, but only Ford, what then? A trunk full of adapters, possibly.
7–Electric cars might be smarter than me. Already I have an inferiority complex when I deal with my gas burner. It’s very complicated. And yet, though it will bluetooth my cell phone, calculate gas mileage to the teaspoon, and give me a backup camera view, it’s a stripper. It doesn’t watch my blind spots or keep me in my lane, wake me up, or tell me where to go. For which I am grateful.
8–Electric cars might take over driving. I’ve never been very trusting of the road. I watch it avidly even when I’m the rider, partly to prevent motion sickness. Sleeping in a car is just not something I can do. Being thus sleepless and untrusting, I can hardly let a human I know and trust do the driving. A machine? No. Just no.
9–Electric cars would navigate too. Another no-no subject. Having had intense navigation training as a child, I don’t have much trouble getting around using skills and maps. A box that tells you where to go is just demeaning. Not only that, but what if it’s wrong? One navigation program I’ve tried put our Social Security office on a railroad siding, instead of a street.
10–Electric cars won’t do the Great American Road Trip. Slow Travel would be the new style as you go hunting for a charging station three hours after leaving home. Could you tow a camper with one? Maybe, but how long would that take to charge and how far would it get with such a load?
Folks, if we end up with electric cars we are likely not to use cars as we are accustomed to any more. The whole experience will shift and become something different, just as horseless carriages changed the way people traveled from horse-drawn ones. These cars might get you to an airport, but you may never again get to see the country from the road.
In big cities, the electrical cars could be just the thing, all clean and safety-conscious for short distances. For those of us who have over an hour to drive to get to a WalMart, they’re just not practical. Hybrids work OK if you have money. For the rest of us, well, we’ll see what they come up with.
Would you want an electric car? Why or why not?