Gasoline Forever or Embrace the EV Revolution? How I Learned to Love (and Hate) the Electric Car
Electric cars. There are few topics more divisive in both auto industry and car enthusiast circles today. It sees everyone has an opinion on them. Yes, including myself.
Depending who you listen to, electrification of our automobiles is either a welcome, inevitable and necessary change—or an unpopular, half-baked anti-consumer movement that’s being forced upon an unwilling public.
But as with so many controversial topics today, most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle. And as a lifelong car enthusiast who considers himself pretty open-minded when it comes to vehicles, I find myself simultaneously loving and hating the electric car.
Embracing the Future, Loving the Past
Now, I currently own an electric vehicle, a Tesla Model 3 Performance to be specific. In fact, I’ve had some type of EV or a plug-in hybrid in the household fleet for nearly a decade now. And the majority of my miles driven in that time have been under battery power.
But those EVs have always been in the garage alongside some red-blooded gasoline cars. Ones both new and old. Everything from a Honda Civic Type R to a Ford Mustang GT, a Toyota GR86, C5 Corvette and a Datsun 510. So from a gearhead's prospective, I’m confident I have a pretty nuanced view of the situation.
Conventional EV Use
First up, my take on the conventional side of the EV argument. For my household's needs, electric cars have served perfectly as both daily commuter and family car. So much so that I can’t imagine a time where I won’t have one.
And it’s not from any sense of environmental or societal duty. Sure, if I can clean up the air or improve the planet that’s great. But I mostly love the instant response, massive torque and quiet cabin. And it’s great being able to plug in at home every night and avoid the hassle of gas stations and the increasing cost of gasoline.
I'm fully convinced that as an alternative for the everyday, nondescript gas cars and CUVs that many Americans drive, EVs really are fantastic and their merits speak for themselves.
But at the same time, I’m completely aware that not everyone is in the same situation as me. Many drivers don’t have the space or budget for multiple vehicles. Many don’t live or work where it’s easy to plug in. And lots of people just don’t want an electric vehicle and the routine change that comes with them.
Can Electric Cars Sell Themselves?
And for all the things I’ve personally enjoyed about EV ownership, it’s hard for me to get on board with forcing motorists into them. The lack of charging infrastructure is well known at this point, and even as an EV fan I wouldn’t be comfortable with an electric-only as the sole vehicle in the household. Certainly not right now, and maybe not ever.
Yes, we always get a vague promise of how much easier charging will be when EVs are the norm, but at this point it’s hard to see impending government or corporate EV mandates as anything but a mess waiting to happen.
It’s getting to the point that each time I hear an established automaker talk about how they are “all in” electric vehicles and ready to leave their gas cars behind that I can’t help but cringe a little.
Are they actually doing something bold and risky? Or are they just trying talk big while they adapt and comply to incentives and impending regulations? I think we know the answer.
And it’s unfortunate that automakers are making me feel that way, because even from an enthusiast standpoint EVs do offer a lot of potential. There’s the aforementioned instant torque, the low center of gravity, the packaging and styling freedom electric powertrains allow. And one of my favorites, the return of RWD as the layout of choice.
But there are big downsides for the enthusiast, too. There’s the obvious lack of engine noise, of manual transmissions or dual-clutch gear changes. There’s also the big weight increase that comes with larger EV batteries.
What Does an EV Future Mean for Enthusiasts?
But mostly it's the unique personalities of enthusiast cars that are most threatened by the EV transition. If you think all new cars feel and look the same now, just wait until they have to be electric.
I love my Model 3. It’s the quickest vehicle I’ve ever owned, it handles extremely well. It’s a genuinely exciting car to drive, yet one that’s also insanely practical and blends in with traffic seamlessly. You can crawl around in it all day and not even discover it can leave many supercars in the dust.
And I don’t even mind its lack of exhaust noise or its all-digital interface because the overall experience is so much different than the cars I grew up driving.
But at the same time, I’m not really looking forward to a world where every performance car on the market has the same basic personality as a Model 3.
Rationally-minded enthusiasts who like electric cars argue that in the future all of our mundane driving will be done with EVs, while the fun gasoline sports cars will still be around for pleasure driving.
That doesn’t sound too bad—and there’s some truth to it. But do you think an EV-centric car market will still make it economically feasible for automakers to build and develop new generations of stick-shift Mazda Miatas, V8 Ford Mustangs or any other of our beloved gasoline enthusiast cars? And that’s not counting the many countries and states who are promising to ban their sales outright.
Ok, so maybe there won't be new gasoline performance cars available in the EV future. But we've got decades of of old ones to enjoy, right? Have you looked at the high prices and dwindling supply of older enthusiast vehicles lately? Think about how much worse it will be if there are zero modern alternatives to satiate the market.
The Solution? Give Us a Choice
My love for cars truly knows no end. And my interest in a diverse variety of cars might be even stronger. So it’s not all that surprising that I’ve embraced both the practical and fun attributes of EVs.
I love the electric car for its individual merits and the new possibilities it's introduced to car design. I love it as a competitive option for normal consumers and enthusiasts alike. I’m even excited to see how my Tesla responds to modifications and how it performs in a track setting.
But I hate the idea of electric car as a political and societal wedge, an “inevitable change” that we all need to prepare for, or something be coerced or forced into by someone who knows better than you.
I'm also hesitant about the idea of throwing away 100+ years of engine development and progress in internal combustion technology. Especially when you consider today’s gasoline engines run cleaner, perform better and are more efficient than many early engine engineers would have ever dreamed.
I also imagine there’d be a lot less pushback against EVs if they were simply presented as a new vehicular choice with their own pros and cons rather than "the future."
Mostly I’d love to continue to live in a world where you can rip down a quarter mile in a dead silent EV OR a screaming Dodge Hellcat, both fresh off the factory floor.
And all the posturing and arguing aside, there shouldn’t be any real reason why we can’t have that.
More From Driving Line
- If you thought EVs themselves were controversial? What about electric Corvette SUVs and sedans?