Some EV critics simply hate cars
Upon closer examination, Zehner’s agenda in this scathing indictment seems to be based on the misguided concept that for many of us bicycles could take the place of cars in our lives. He might be partially right if we all lived in California, Texas or Florida and lived within five miles of our work.
Of course we’d all need bicycle trailers to haul anything at all, but how this well-intentioned if big-picture challenged pundit thinks he’s going to get overweight people who won’t even use their seatbelts to switch to riding bicycles is a million dollar question. It might be good for their health – except for all the CO2 and particulates in the air.
What he’s suggesting comes in part from the way academia works. The university is meant to provide an ivory tower from which academicians can look down upon society and perceive patterns invisible to the rest of us down at street level.
Obviously Zehner has been up in the tower far too long and needs to spend some time in the streets he purports to know something about.
"Shifting from gasoline to electric vehicles is like switching a smoking habit from cloves to menthols," asserts Zehner. "It isn't acceptable for doctors to promote menthol cigarettes -- should environmentally minded people promote alternative fuel cars?"
Case in point – anyone who has ever smoked knows the person smoking clove cigarettes is attempting to break the habit (or just thinks its cool) and is not about to switch to menthol cigarettes.
Furthermore, having known someone who flew head over heels off a scooter when they encountered a pothole (with highly injurious results), Zehner is doing exactly what he’s accusing the doctor of – by suggesting we all ride bikes. The cars of today are much safer than riding a bicycle.
On a radio station in the seemingly foreign land of California yesterday, Zehner asserts the higher cost of electric cars reflects the greater quantities of fossil fuels used to build them, apparently unaware it is the battery that raises the price of EVs and hybrids.
He makes the argument that electric cars do not eliminate the negative side effects of vehicular travel, but merely shift the problems elsewhere and we know what he’s saying. One hundred years ago our cities were polluted with horse droppings and the cost of transportation was about sheltering and feeding the beasts.
Automobiles removed the smelly piles of partially digested hay from our streets and replaced it with the smell of partially combusted hydrocarbons. Fortunately, the automobile works in a wider array of weather and keeps you more comfortable, whatever the weather is doing. Even long drives today won’t give you saddle sores.
However, the same principle of unintended consequences would still apply if we all switched to bicycles tomorrow. We would simply trade our current problems for new ones.
He correctly points out EV studies compare traditional gasoline fuel to electric car charging, which relies primarily on coal, natural gas and nuclear power – overlooking the fact we can use of wind, sun and water to produce electricity.
Zehner goes on to point out the impact of manufacturing the car, also oblivious to the extent many auto manufacturers have gone to in reducing the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process in recent years. The UC at Berkeley probably produces as much or more CO2 as the nearby Tesla Plant.
He whines about how the added copper, aluminum, rare earth metals and other materials used to create EVs offset any benefit of the car’s electric lifetime.
Has anyone studied how much copper, aluminum, rare earth metals and other materials are used to fight Oil Wars and keep fossil fuels cheaply available? What is the carbon footprint of an IED, RPG or SmartBomb?
Are automotive manufacturers responsible for what mining entails?
In any case, won’t these metals be mined for one use or another until every single resource is extracted from the Earth?
Wouldn’t the same results follow building newer and better bicycles for every person – as you can’t carry a family on your bicycle?
"Alternative-fuel vehicles stand to define and spread patterns of 'sustainable living' that cannot be easily sustained without cars,” Zehner added. “Suburban infrastructure maintenance and road construction induce ecological consequences beyond the side effects of the vehicle itself."
Of course they do, but what’s the point? It’s like saying we all produce carbon dioxide when we exhale, so if you must breathe, don’t overdo it. Here’s a newsflash – cars don’t cause urban sprawl, population growth does.
Frankly we think it’s easier to get the firearms out of the hands of an NRA member, than it is to get Americans out of their cars.
We agree with Zehner that city planning and maybe even two-wheel transportation both have a part to play in solving our problems, but to rule out the contribution EVs can make, along with other alternative fuels and technologies, is simply not seeing the big picture.
It comes down to this: a system based on perpetual growth on a planet of finite resources is bound to hit a wall sooner or later. Sustainability is about putting that off until mining the remaining resources of the solar system at large is practical.
We certainly won’t get there on bicycles. Just ask Elon Musk.