When I’m talking to friends who are fellow gearheads, we always get around to talking about electric cars somehow or other. It’s a product of the times we’re living in as much as anything else. Electric vehicles are definitely the future, no doubt about that, and in my opinion, the past few years were the first time that really became apparent.
I was opposed to electric cars for a while, because they’ve really only become viable in the past few years. Old electric cars weren’t powerful at all. They had laughable horsepower and their batteries were pathetic in range. They just weren’t practical. Nowadays, I can’t help but tip my hat to the people making the Tesla’s and Volt’s that are on the street. They’re some really admirable cars in lots of ways. They finally have a good range, they have solid horsepower, and they finally feel good to drive, which to me is one of the most important aspects of a car. In fact I just read an article which was speculating that now that Chevy has a relatively cheap little electric car out, they might be crossing the threshold of actually taking over the market:
Now that you can actually compare them to gas cars, I think some real differences are popping out. First of all, electric motors run better than gas motors. They’re cleaner, they’re smoother, and if you know anything about physics, they’re a lot more efficient in the ratio of power input to output. So even though a lot of people are still getting their electricity from gas and coal, they’re still making an impact by saving so much of the power along the way. I’ve been watching some races in Europe which are all electric cars, and they’re damn impressive. There was a great Top Gear episode too where Clarkson drove an electric supercar and couldn’t stop raving about it. That shows you a lot about how far we’ve come in the past 10 years alone.
As someone who works inside cars a lot and gets pretty filthy, I also like that electric drivetrains are so much cleaner. They don’t foul up as easy as gasoline drive systems, so you don’t have to even think about soot or fuel injector cleaners. You can get your fuel from any kind of source you want, too, which is good, since we’re definitely seeing a more diverse energy system these days as well.
Will I ever convert to an electric vehicle?
Honestly, I’d have to say no. I’d miss the noise, to be perfectly straight with you. I like the growl, the roar, and the personality of gas motors. From gas to electric feels like going from human to robot, from something with a character to just a machine. I know they work better, but they just don’t feel the same to me.
I also like the tactile tinkering you can do with a gas motor. They can be complicated and sophisticated, but they’re straight mechanics, and you can eventually problem solve them. Electric cars are so computerized and specialized that you can’t really do that anymore. I don’t want to have a degree and a computer just to get under the hood.
I wonder too about whether mechanics like me would be able to get started in 10 years when most cars are electric. They’re so much less intuitive, and companies are much more proprietary about their parts and service that it seems to me that you couldn’t get an entry-level job servicing an electric car. That’s how so many of us get started, so it seems to me that it would just upset the whole food chain. I also can’t help but wonder how much it must cost to have a computer hookup in your shop and all the software and such to work on one of these vehicles. To my mind, it looks like we’re going to be moving to a dealership-only service model, which is going to put a lot of people like me out of business. I guess we’ll see.
At any rate, I think it’s hard to argue with the winningness of electric motors. There are a lot of things yet to be worked out, though. Definitely an interesting topic to read about, if you’re of the mind.