Today, the most ardent electric vehicle advocates, EVangelists, want internal combustion vehicles to go away entirely. Except if it means that an ambulance won’t come for them or their grandmother when a 911 call is made. Or on garbage pickup day. Or if the house catches fire. Or when they order an Amazon item. And they are just hunky dory with green vehicles that come from another continent on a massively polluting cargo ship and are then delivered to their local vehicle supplier by diesel-fueled trucks. Heck, they even applaud when a Tesla van (powered by evil fossil fuel) shows up to help reboot their $130K green machine. Nobody bats an eye when the Solar City estimator shows up in a gas-powered subcompact, even though every major brand now has a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) that could do that job. Heck, Solar City is part of Tesla, so all sins are to be forgiven.
What Is Considered Green Will Change
This will shift. BEV advocates will become more entrenched, the vehicles will improve, and their thinking will evolve. They will continue to demand changes to the public infrastructure to ban fossil fuel use. First with expanded “carbon offsets.” Then outright bans. Need proof? We’ve already seen the green vehicle movement evolve significantly.
Hybrid Evolution From the Solution To Part of the Problem
Over twenty-five years ago, Toyota, GM, and others all had high-efficiency automobile technology available to them that would dramatically reduce fuel consumption. Toyota was the only automaker to go deeply into the development of that technology for everyday vehicles. The result was the Prius line of vehicles. The Prius was a slow seller at first. Then the Prius became the top-selling new car in California, ground-zero for those most concerned about air quality and global warming. Then the Prius began a very steady decline in sales as other, greener options became available and as those who wanted to put their money where their mouth is got a green vehicle.
Among the most idealist of the green vehicle fans today, the Prius is no longer cool. In fact, the car that has saved more petroleum from being consumed than any other is just "part of the problem." If you frequent green vehicle forums you see the comments and you know this opinion is not uncommon. If not, cruise on over to Clean Technica and read this editorial asking Toyota to kill off the Prius hybrid. Don't miss the supporting comment, "Does the Prime has an exhaust pipe? Why are you having trouble understanding that ALL vehicles with these pipes are now, and have been for ages, unacceptable." This commenter is ahead of the pack. It is folks like this that will soon be leaving comments saying, "Your BEV only gets 97 MPGe? Glutton!" Shortly after it will be, "You have a private vehicle!? You're killing the planet!"
Dirty Diesel Used To Be Green
The Prius is not the only example of the evolution of green vehicle thinking. Diesel has always been dirty. The myths about its efficiency when applied to real-world mainstream vehicles continue to this day. At a glance, diesel seems like a good idea. Just don't look too closely. The diesel lobby almost had the green car folks fooled.
Green Car Journal announced its Green Car of the Year Award at the 2008 LA Auto show. The VW Jetta diesel was the winner. “This signals that clean diesel has arrived,” Ron Cogan, editor of Green Car Journal, told the world. Those cars polluted at up to 40X the average for gas cars their size. The diesel fiasco that cost VW billions and even resulted in the imprisonment of an employee, woke up the general public to the fact that not only are diesel vehicles not green, they don’t even have better CO2 numbers and petroleum usage numbers than top-selling gasoline-powered cars and crossovers. And they are slower and more expensive. Like with no longer fashionable hybrids and diesel cars, the idealists will eventually turn their attention to EVs.
What An EV Is Depends On Who You Ask
In fact, green car idealists already have turned on some cars with plugs. Under many stories about electric vehicles, the idealists can’t wait to chime in and tell the world that “Only battery electric cars are true EVs and anyone who thinks PHEVS, EREVS, and FCEVs are EVs are obviously dumber than a doornail.” This ignores the fact that in many cases plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and extended range electric vehicles are used almost exclusively by owners as EVs. Among a large group of owners for whom BEVs are unworkable one PHEV or EREV works instead of buying a second gas car to make occasional long trips in. Saving gas and reducing CO2 production isn’t enough anymore for the extreme EVangelists. Killing off evil fossil fuels is the real goal, and half measures are viewed as dangerous delays.
Global warming and climate change are not going to stop. Walk the Bering Isthmus if you think it will. Or visit the glaciers in Boston. Long ago, EVangelists seized upon the idea that passenger cars were a major contributor to modern-day global warming. Of course, they are right. But the fact that each year Americans north of the Mason-Dixon line use more fossil fuels to heat and cool their homes is ignored. Light rail is all the rage. My town has a stop that runs into Boston. It runs empty more than half the time, but when people actually need that service, the diesel-powered Amtrak trains are full at the third stop on a line with dozens more to make. Leaving the EV home to use the diesel train is not going to help save us.
Light a candle and put it into a box. Close the box and it will heat that space. That is mother Earth. We are heating up the planet in so many ways it is impossible to list them. As the global population grows and prospers those people are going to want to be comfortable. That means more power consumed (heat generated), more AC for a larger percentage of the population, and more CO2 created. So the warming is not going to stop. Ever. Unless something solar or catastrophic happens. Again. As it has off and on for millennia. Still, over time, the planet will heat up. And that is all the excuse needed to kill off private vehicle ownership. And more.
Following the slow-motion banning of liquid-fueled vehicles, a new slow-motion ban will begin. Despite advances in technology, BEVs will still require energy. Big BEVs and ones that are fast, or have dual-drive motors for performance, or have a long range will use more energy than smaller, more efficient ones. All energy usage creates heat. Even "renewable and clean" energy. Worse, "clean energy" is not unlimited. The larger, higher-performing (profitable) BEVs will be the first of the BEVs to be regulated. The first step will be a loss of the free money now used to buy them. The current subsidies that taxpayers provide for luxury cars will be cut. They will also be booted out of the high-occupancy, now called green vehicle traffic lanes. Just like hybrids were. Next, the automakers will be punished for their crimes. They won’t be allowed to count the bigger and higher-performance BEVs against their sin taxes. Just as hybrids no longer count. The minimum-allowable BEV efficiency will be set at a marker that adds so much to the cost of the cars that they will become smaller, slower, and less and less popular.
Conspicuous car consumption will also become unfashionable. The new fashion will be affordable fashion. Sort of like Kanye's $40 jacket at the Met Gala this week. The cool cats won’t want the big high-performance vehicles anymore. Nor will they wish to travel autonomously in them. They will wait longer for the smaller more crowded Uber cars. Which, by law, will not make a trip unless and until they are full.
Bye Bye Personal Performance Vehicles
The ever-tightening efficiency rules won’t stop. After the point of diminishing returns from simple efficiency mandates is reached, leadership states like California will institute steep levies on owners who have more than one vehicle, or who earn high incomes. High-income earners already pay more for the same BEVs in California than do lower income earners. That will eventually put personal performance cars to death since one must first have a practical vehicle.
The Horror Of Carbon-Polluted Food and First-Use Water
It won’t just be cars that suffer this evolution. Can you possibly imagine anyone eating (locally-sourced, organic vegan) food cooked by natural gas? Or for the love of Mike, cooked on an outside grill using carbon-based fuel of any kind? Imagine the horror of having two homes or more rooms in one’s home than needed. And who with any sort of social conscience would ever drink “first-use water?” Be patient. BEVs are just next in line for being evolved out of fashion.
Author note: The author was part of a University of Massachusetts team that built a solar-electric car from scratch in 1990. His role was designing and building the thermal management system for the batteries. His daily driver is a PZEV compact crossover and is leaning toward the Kia Niro BEV as the best car he has tested this year.