Plug-in hybrid and EV drivers have many reasons for driving the vehicles they do. Some (like me) love the rush of electric torque and acceleration. Some love bypassing gas stations, without stopping. Some like the environmental friendliness of their ride or the near-silence of an electric drivetrain.
Many of these drivers follow their migration to a new mode of transport with a boosted environmental greenness. Some switch to an electric company that generates electricity from wind, solar or hydroelectric sources, in other words 100% pollution-free electricity. Some, (like me) look into acquiring solar panels for their home, in order to reduce their cost of electricity (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) as well as contributing to a more sustainable world.
Sustainable. Interesting word and how we apply it…
We often think of ways to make human existence more “sustainable,” as global population continues to rise. We recycle. We buy reusable canvas bags for grocery shopping, while eschewing the old “plastic or paper?” question, at checkout. We donate to, or join, environmental organizations, like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, etc. and join others for hiking or cleaning up an area park. Some even join in protests against off-shore drilling, fracking, coal mining, nuclear energy or non-stop war.
But we fail to change in a way that’s fundamental to sustainability. We don’t walk the walk.
We buy an EV because it’s fun. Ecological friendliness is a nice added feature, that gives us some bragging rights, but it wasn’t our main goal. I’ll admit, saving money on gasoline was the major reason I got my first Volt.
Today, we are bombarded with causes to support. We are asked to sign petitions via email pleas, social media, television and radio. We often sign these petitions, feeling proud of ourselves for being so ecologically-minded. Then we get in our gas-powered car and commute to work or back home. We just can’t understand why the government can’t (or won’t) stop off-shore drilling or fracking, when the reason is right in front of us (or around us, as we drive). We continue to buy gasoline to fuel our commute. Someone has to get that gasoline for us and they expect to be paid for this service. These companies donate to politicians who promise less interference in their day-to-day business and will continue to do so as long as there is profitable demand for their product.
I have a friend, who is constantly brain-storming ways to make mankind more sustainable, and more lucrative for himself, but he drives a large “Hemi” pickup truck, of which he is quite proud. He has plenty of reasons for needing a large pickup, but I have those same needs and resolve them by renting a truck the few times of year I need that functionality. We were discussing his latest sustainability idea, when I called him out on this. We are good friends and we can be “real” with one another. He may have been a bit chastened, but he’s not out there shopping for an EV right now…
Another form of “sustainability,” is the sustainability of the profitability of the providers of the new approaches to transportation and energy generation. If these companies cannot turn a profit, they will stop providing their products and services. That’s how capitalism works. Capitalism is not about being behind any cause, other than business profit. We all know that and accept that. It’s one of the things that keeps me from having to trade chickens for bread at the local market. Due to this, capitalism is, by its very nature, conservative and resistant to change. Companies will squeeze every bit of revenue from current products, before innovating new ones. There are exceptions to this, such as Elon Musk (Tesla Motors/Space-X/SolarCity), Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak (Apple/Next/Pixar) and others, but they are the exception, not the rule. Buyers of products, even buyers of new, sustainable transportation, want the lowest price possible (of course). However, new products have huge R&D costs, which take years to recoup. When purchasing your next plug-in vehicle, charging station, etc, you may want to factor in your desire for the company to continue its development. Squeezing every last dollar, during your negotiations, may make the salesperson less interested in selling that vehicle to the next consumer who walks in the door. Spending hours asking questions of your salesperson but then purchasing the vehicle at a different dealership, in order to shave another $10 off your monthly car note, teaches a lesson, albeit one you probably didn’t intend. It actually moves the salesperson, dealership and manufacturer away from sustainability.
How we deal with other plug-in vehicle drivers also has an impact. When we park at a public charging station, but do not plug our vehicles in, or stay long past the time our battery is charged, we artificially reduce the number of available charging locations. It may even cause an EV driver to become stranded, reducing their satisfaction with their vehicle and therefore their desire to get another plug-in vehicle, in the future. When their friends ask how they like their EV, they will mention this issue, making their friends less open to plug-in vehicles. Again, this works against sustainability. We would never think of blocking a gas pump for hours at a time. Why do we do this with charging stations?
There are many ways to drive, or defeat, sustainable products. Where are you on the sustainability scale?