Chatter: As a lifelong owner of sports cars, I love the feel of a stick shift in my right fist, the low rumble of the idling engine and the throaty whine of the motor as I slip up through six gears. I like driving a car, not letting it drive me.
That is why I am somewhat wistful about our automotive future. One day not too distant, we will all be in cars that make little sound, that have no gears, that drive themselves and leave us as nearly passive as passengers on a bus.
On the other hand, I also love living on a planet that is hospitable; one not ravaged by massive hurricanes, endless droughts, seasons of wildfires, killer floods, melting ice caps and dangerously warm oceans. So, I accept that the internal combustion engine needs to become extinct.
A big step in that direction was taken last week when, first, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and then Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced their states would ban the sale of gasoline-powered automobiles by 2035. Our gas-gulping cars, as fun as they may be, are a major source of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. By switching to electric cars, we may finally do something big to forestall the most horrific consequences of planetary warming.
Other states will follow the lead of the West Coast and that will help push toward the goal, but the key players joining the cause are the major automakers, who after years of aligning with the oil and gas industry, now are going all in on an EV future.
Yes, it’s going to happen, but the road will be bumpy. There will be political resistance; electric cars are certain to become another target of right-wing extremists who see a satanic plot in every move toward a more enlightened world. Certainly Texas, with its reliance on the fossil-fuels industry and its politics mired in militant conservatism, will lead a counter charge.
And, apart from the inevitable politics, there are daunting technological and systemic challenges. Will enough chargers be installed on every road in the country? Will they be reliable, and who will maintain them? Can our electric grid handle the huge demand for power if everyone has an electric car? Where will we get the valuable and somewhat scarce minerals to power all those millions of batteries? From China, our greatest adversary? From Sweden, where new mines to extract those minerals are already being blocked by local communities?
One way or another, this will all be sorted out and our future cars will be silent, semi-sentient and all electric. It will happen, not just because a persistent cadre of valiant tree-huggers has been raising the alarm for years, not just because political leaders in a few key states have finally gotten serious about climate change, but because economic power is rapidly shifting toward the side of environmental progress.
Buckle up, we are turning onto a new road.
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