Video: Why Electric Cars Won’t Save Us

I got sidetracked with a personal issue, so I’m going to have to hand you over to Youtube again. I think this video is a useful look at the electric car phenomenon, and gets at myths and fantasies that I’ve fallen for in the past.

I think electric cars do have a valid place in society, but not as anyone’s default transportation – more for localized transit from mass transit stops to areas not accessible, and for folks with disabilities that require them.


  1. John Morales says

    What a load of wank.

    By the time I got to “Electric cars embody imperialist relationships”, it was clear this was a silly bit of bloviation.

    Then it got onto the wonders of public transport in crowded city centres and of imaginary places, and I gave up.

  2. K says

    I’m sitting here this morning hearing gas-guzzling airplane after gas-guzzling airplane roar overhead. I’ve got the news playing in the lower corner of my screen, and they’re talking about an astoundingly huge container ship loaded with countless containers (like containing stupid consumer crap) that got stuck in a shipping lane and was finally freed after a month.

    I think we’re too late for electric cars.

    BTW, last night on 60 Minutes, they had a story about electric air flight. I would have liked to have seen it, but in my area it was pre-empted by sportzballz consisting of gas-burning cars going zoom-zoom-zoom in a circle for three hours. Because this is somehow entertainment.

    I think we’re too late for the human race.

  3. says

    I’ve found transit in cities to be pretty good. When I was lucky enough to spend a couple weeks in Italy, it wasn’t a big deal to get a ride the two miles to the train station, from which I could go pretty much anywhere in the country.

    It’s not hard to design a world in which cars are unnecessary for a majority of people, and doing so will have a MASSIVE impact on how much pollution we create.

  4. planter says

    You got me going on this one Abe…. Of course public transit should be the default in high density cities for people without mobility challenges and who do not need to carry a large volume / mass of things with them.

    Electric vehicles have their place. I live in the largest city (250K people) in a province with ~1.1 million people spread out over an area larger than the country of France. Less than half of the provincial population lives in a place where public transport is even minimally viable, so widespread EV adoption will greatly reduce carbon emissions.

    The biggest problem is that EVs are just not available. I was recently speaking to an inventory manager from a truck dealership – they had 15 people ready to buy (sight unseen) a F-150 Lightning, but only 5 available to sell this year. There are many more like me ready to jump as soon as one is on the lot. I, for example am nursing a 20 year old F-150 along until I can replace it with an EV, and my University would happily start replacing our fleet of field trucks with electric vehicles in a heartbeat. These are all vehicles being used in applications (pulling heavy trailers, accessing remote locations, etc. etc.) for which there is no viable alternative.

  5. lorn says

    This guy undercuts his own argument. It’s a perfect is the enemy of the good argument. And yes, every technology is imperfect, and transitional … until the next comes along.

    Electric vehicles are but one incomplete solution. As are ‘walk-able cities and public transportation’. Bicycles are a perfectly usable technology. Ultra-capacitors are mostly carbon and may replace chemical batteries. Who knows. I know, the video gets more clicks being contradictory and oppositional. Starting with ‘most of what you know is wrong’ and following with ‘let me tell you the real story’ is a well worn gimmick. That’s how conspiracy theories get traction.

    Nothing in this is wrong. Its just framed inefficiently and posits huge conflicts where there is very little. The solution for climate change is not going to be, short of a massive breakthrough in fusion, any single thing. It is going to be a lot of smaller changes. Gasoline to electric is but one.

  6. says

    Yes, adopting EVs is a clear upgrade over ICE cars. No question. As I said, there will also always be uses for them. No question.

    But IMO the answer to a sprawling city like that is stuff like a well-funded trolley system, connected to a wider rail system, with the space to let people actually move stuff on trains, the way they did before cars were widely available.

    It’s a huge undertaking, of course, and it’s not going to happen just because I want it to, any more than a switch to EVs would.

    But the EV switch will also require a massive private and public investment in resources and infrastructure, an end to government fossil fuel subsidies that artificially lower the cost of ICE vehicles.

    There’s no easy path forward at this point. I’m generally in favor of “all of the above”, but the fact is that if we attempt to replace our current car usage with electric vehicles, “poor” countries rich in minerals like lithium will be ground to dust, just as so many oil-rich countries have been.

    Greenhouse gases are, unfortunately, not the only thing we have to worry about. Habitat destruction and chemical pollution are also reaching critical points separate from the climate crisis. Changing how we power our society without changing anything else is still a likely recipe for disaster.

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