A beautiful, if not a simple, case for electric cars

I love this commercial. It’s a beautiful piece of storytelling, saying it all in images.

Nissan, which is still primarily a manufacturer of gasoline cars, has taken a very bold position in marketing of the all-electric Leaf by flipping the question “why drive electric?” to the thought-provoking, “why drive a gasoline-powered car?

I like it, not because the answer is simple. It isn’t. EVs are not yet able to deliver the distance of gas-powered cars or the low price point. They are improving. But are those the only two issues that should matter to us? Driving an EV has certainly required my family to make some adjustments regarding when we leave to go somewhere (in order to take the slower route when possible and preserve charge), how many times we drive in a day (thinking more about multiple goals with one trip rather than multiple trips each focused on one goal), and planning where to stop for supplemental charging while away from home (if needed, and what to do with the time while the car is charging). But it would be overly simplistic and blind to look at these adjustments as negatives.

Taking a slower route to preserve charge has taken us off of the toll roads, saving us an expense that was growing month to month due to our hurried behavior and poor trip planning. And we all know how being in a hurry just snowballs. It’s a modern habit, a lifestyle, and it’s a choice, not an unavoidable condition.

Planning our trips away from the house more thoughtfully in order to accomplish multiple things in one outing has clearly been a blessing. It saves us time to do more important things than just drive around and reduces stress. It helps combat the hurry-up habit I mentioned above.

Considering when we’ll need away-from-home charging, deciding where to do it and what we’ll do while we wait, doesn’t have to be a negative. We’re all so mobile now that we can find a spot to do some work on our tablet or laptop while we wait an hour for a charge, or just unplug for a bit and enjoy face-to-face conversation with someone. Going for a walk, reading a book, visiting a shop we’ve never been in — all are good for us and can help us reduce stress.

And, of course, there’s the Nissan TV ad with it’s implication that making small choices that can help in a larger goal of becoming better stewards of our planet. No one is claiming we don’t have a lot of challenges in cleaning up our electric grid. But the potential efficiencies for generating power for electric vehicles would appear to far outweigh the remaining potential for big leaps in efficiencies with our fossil fuel system. The more people who decide to take on the life-style adjustment challenges and opportunities of driving an EV, the more impetus there will be for accelerating innovation in how we generate electricity. And there are still efficiencies to be achieved in internal combustion engines, as well, while we work through a transition period that no one expects to be quick. Inventor Mike Brickley has developed a new design for the internal combustion engine that reduces friction by 35% and yields 15-20% improved gas mileage and reduced CO2 emissions. Mike is working hard to break through old patterns and assumptions with new ideas. Sounds a lot like what has been happening to me, driving an EV.

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