Originally published on CleanTechnica.
By Mike Barnard
Every day brings another headline about a bad study making false claims about electric cars, another well-known-enough person sneering at them, or another video of someone rolling coal all over an electric car. What makes these people and the legions of people who believe them and cheer them on tick? It’s worth breaking out the varying sociological and psychological factors at play among the people who are virulently opposed to electric vehicles.
Fogeys vs Hippies
There’s a long tradition of alternative lifestyle progressives embracing the environment, renewable energy, and electric vehicles. Opposing that are the forces of conservatism, often strongly overlapping resistance to change with specifically social conservatism. This has led to a situation where a subset of people consider electric vehicles to be emblematic of something that they consider morally suspect and inferior in the absence of any rational thought.
Vroom Vroom Boys vs Actual Performance Nuts
There are a lot of people who think that vroom vroom equates to go go, when in actual fact it’s kind of a useless byproduct of go go. Because you can’t get away without noise if you are exploding multi-million-year-old plants inside metal cylinders, they’ve turned a problem into an absurd sort of virtue by tuning the sound with specific types of mufflers and celebrating greater amounts of noise as somehow good and indicative of goodness. It’s as if people rated the quality of food that they put in their mouths by the vileness of the odours that come out their butts a day later. Actual performance nuts are paying attention to the following:
- fastest production bike in the world is electric
- quickest production sedan ever is electric with 0–60 mph time of 2.6 seconds
- fastest bike up Pike’s Peak in 2013 by 20 seconds was electric
- two fastest production sports cars are plug-in hybrids
- you have to get into top fuel dragsters before you get faster than the fastest electric car 0-60 mph of 1.779 seconds.
Climate Change Deniers vs People Who Accept Reality
There are a lot of people who often violently reject the incredibly well supported evidence of human-caused climate change, and even the bottom-end negative impacts of the best-case scenarios. For those people, anything which becomes linked to being a solution for climate change is immediately something to be attacked.
Automotive Secondary Markets vs Primary Markets
There are a lot of people who make a very good living due to the following: there are over 10,000 moving parts in internal combustion cars, they require a ton of maintenance to keep those parts working, they require a ton of replacement parts every year, and they require a ton of secondary-parts manufacturers to feed the automotive manufacturing and repair industries. It’s not the “Big Three” that are preventing Tesla from being sold in various US states — it’s the car dealership lobbies.
Nostalgists vs Futurists
Incredibly large numbers of car enthusiasts are specifically nostalgists, although many will deny it. They love marques because they were the best at specific points in time, often decades ago. They love specific muscle or sports cars from the 1950s or 1960s. They love old car movies. They lost their virginities in the back seats of old Fords. As such, they are attached to the signifiers of their nostalgic obsessions: noise, smell, vibration, styling, and brand. Futurists constantly let go of the current and historical for the empirically better. You can see this playing out with automatics vs standards, then paddle-shifters vs gear shifts, and now dual-clutch automatics vs pretty much everything. There is no argument against dual-clutch automatics except nostalgia and a preference for more control over inferior performance; they are just better. And dual-clutch automatics are inferior to no-clutch electric cars.
Fossil Fuel Advocates vs Electrification Realists
Electric vehicles substantially shift energy load from fossil fuel extraction, refinement, and distribution to the electrical grid. And the electrical grid has diminishing portions of fossil fuels and can be completely fossil fuel free. If you make your living off of fossil fuels at some point in the value stream, it’s much harder to accept that your job is obsolete due to better technology. See the Upton Sinclair quote above.
Marketing vs Empiricism
Compare the amount of marketing dollars spent by internal combustion vehicle companies vs electric vehicle companies. The ratio is much, much higher than the ratio of cars manufactured would suggest. While the Big Three automakers get lots of R&D tax credits, most of that money gets plowed into tiny stylistic variants which are branding and marketing signifiers, not real R&D. I still haven’t seen a Tesla in a movie or TV series, but I see product placement of BMWs, Audis, and the like constantly in those channels. If you are even moderately susceptible to the kind of emotive appeals that all of that marketing places on you, you are going to find it much harder to cast the scales off of your eyes and actually see the reality of electric vehicles.
Internal combustion cars are a huge subset of the developed world’s economy and a large part of people’s status presentation to others. They are integral elements of innumerable mass culture cliches which play out constantly. They are at the end of a massive supply chain which sucks long-dead plants out of the ground, transports them potentially thousands of kilometres, refines them and transforms them multiple times, then transports them hundreds or thousands of kilometres more so that you can explode them in metal cylinders to make your rubber wheels go around so that you can drive to pick up a loaf of bread.
It’s a hard habit to break, like smoking. But we have to and will. If you live in North America, when was the last time you saw someone smoking in a restaurant?