The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Bipartisan Technologies

Now that electric vehicles (e.g., Tesla and Nissan Leaf) and plug-in hybrid electrics (e.g., Chevy Volt and Fisker Karma) are going to be introduced to wider consumer market in 2011, there appears to be a reactionary backlash from many automotive blogs, select automotive magazines and some commentators on the Right. In the automotive realm, many writers pooh-pooh the performance of the vehicles, question the range of EVs and PHEVs, and suggest subtly that there is no need to move away from gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles. Commentators on the Right often argue that EVs and PHEVs are not as "green" as claimed and seem to twist themselves into a pretzel to prove that the benefits are of these new vehicles are minimal, at best.

All of the critics seem to miss one fundamental point: Using vehicles that are driven (in whole or in part) by electricity will begin a long process that will aid in achieving energy independence. It will reduce emissions and pollutants (regardless of the ridiculous arguments to the contrary) and will provide a national security advantage by reducing dependence on foreign oil and the countries that supply it.

Any yet, there seems to be a concerted effort to denigrate this new generation of vehicles before EVs and PHEVs even reach the broader market. The big question is: why?

On the automotive side, it’s probably nothing more than resistance to change. The gasoline-powered vehicle has been around a long time, and automotive writers are (apparently) having a hard time dealing with cars that are radically different. How do you write about shift points and torque curves when the car you’re looking at has no transmission and step-function torque? How do you describe the growl of a high performance engine when a 400 HP electric motor makes almost no sound?

Those on the Right seem obsessed with defeating any idea that is not associated with big oil and are only too willing to bad-mouth any alternative energy source as inefficient, ineffective, or inane. Right-leaning publications always seem to be the first to question the economics of EVs and PHEVs, suggesting that the savings they accrue cannot be cost-justified because of their higher purchase price. They conveniently forget that newly adopted technologies are always more expensive (think: LCD flat screens, smart phones, e-book readers) but come down in price rapidly as adoptions accelerate.

In reality, EVs and PHEVs are truly bi-partisan technologies. They allow those on the Left to celebrate going green while those on the Right can celebrate because the U.S. will no longer have to buy oil from people who want to kill us. It’s win-win, and that’s why those of us in the Center will be among the first in line to adopt these new technologies.