Posted: January 27th, 2011 by Militant Libertarian
A friend sent me a link to read an essay titled “Accelerating electrification of transportation with more government dollars or a super-light electrical vehicle strategy“. It’s an “alternative” plan to the Electric Drive Transportation Association’s “Driving Forward” government beg-a-thon document. Sadly, the proponents of electric vehicles, including many of those building them, seem fixated on begging government for money. I’ve talked about this before.
The refreshing thing about the Next Big Future “Accelerating electrification..” plan is that it’s only quoting the EDTA rather than itself begging for government money. At least, on a national level.
The Next Big Future plan is to instead put all of the onus of electrification on cities and (perhaps) counties. This localized approach is at least much more honest than the nationalized option, since it requires the jurisdiction of local governments to pay for it – which means it’s closer to the taxpayer who can say “hell no” to proffering those funds. Tyrants 20 miles away are a lot easier to deal with than are those that are 2,000 miles away.
The overall idea behind the Next Big Future plan is based on urbanization. Since we live in a time when cities are expanding and the vast majority of the American populace (stupidly) chooses to live in those urban hot spots, this approach to electrification makes sense.
After all, those who live in urbanized areas with relatively short distances to travel and a lot of congestion and smog to deal with would benefit most from battery electric vehicles.
As per usual, however, the Next Big Future plan ignores one simple thing: market factors.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the driving force behind nearly all American car sales is families and perceived spacial needs. That tiny 2-seater “urban commuter” might seem nice, but people don’t buy those. The largest car market in the U.S. is.. you guessed it, the family mid-sized market. Those larger sedans, minivans, SUVs, and whatnot are the biggest sellers in America for a reason: that’s what people friggin want.
For some reason, future designers can’t seem to grasp that. Methinks they need to have a couple of kids and get a dog. Then they’ll see that their Miata-sized urban commuter is impractical. Sorry, sad but true. I should know. I have two kids and two dogs. This thought-change for designers may never happen since most good designers, as we all know, are either gay or incapable of talking to the opposite sex. Sometimes both. Neither is conducive to reproduction. If you’re offended by that remark, you’re also incapable of humor; which means you’re definitely on the wrong blog.
There are two types of car buyers in North America: those who buy based on the coolness factor and those who buy based on practical expectation. Sometimes the two meet, but usually not. This is likely why most American families own two cars.
Just a theory, but I suspect that the 2-car garage arose precisely because “cool” cars are never practical and practical cars are never “cool.” It’s a basic law of physics. Newton noted it in his “Carriage Size and Propulsion” papers.
Electric and other “green option” cars are, let’s face it, purchased primarily for the coolness factor. Ya, those who buy them will tout their “planet saving” abilities and “wave of the future” predictions, but they’re only spouting that crap as another way to show off how cool they think they are. This is why new technologies like fuel cell vehicles always go to big name Hollywood types and are only occasionally thrown to the token “Joe Plumber” type, usually just long enough to get the press coverage.
So far, I have yet to see a mainstream (realistic) electric car design that is practical. In hybrid electrics, like fuel cells, this is not the case, as many of them are entirely practical. But with battery electrics? They’re all tiny boxes with wheels on them shaped to look either just like the Toyota Prius or as much not like the Prius as possible. Depending on marketing strategy.
So all-electric vehicles are sold purely on their “coolness” factor. The ones sold based on “practicality” are the rare exception and are only practical to the barest percentage of the population. Take theAptera 2e, for example. If I could choose any electric vehicle, it would be that one. Why? Because it’s cool. Look at it, though. Would my two babies and two dogs fit in the thing? Hell no. I’d own it purely on coolness factor.
This is why I question whether battery electric cars will ever become mainstream. Of course, I don’t work at Ford or Nissan or wherever. It looks like they have a clue, at least. Ford is working on larger electrics (e.g. Transit Connect) and the Coda Sedan isn’t a tiny box either. Now they just need to get that range thing worked out.