Trucks, Automotive Media, EVs, and the Polarization of America

Seems my tweet yesterday ripping on a story at Jalopnik got some attention – but, since nuance generally takes more than 280 characters, I’m concerned that my intentions were lost in the chatter. Beyond that, however, I think I’ve unintentionally revealed some truths about the potential future adoption of electric vehicles vis-à-vis the schism between people in America.

My reason for tweeting was primarily as a jab at the direction a once-great automotive culture website has taken. I’ve written (once) for Jalopnik, and the experience was fine. I don’t really know anyone on the site currently, but I’m sure they’re fine people.

Jalopnik’s About page notes that they’re a “news and opinion website about cars…” among other things.

Yet the lede of the story directly rips on people who have willingly placed orders for a car. I’m not getting into the semantics of car vs. truck here – just go with me.

Many have noted over the years (including Jalops and their colleagues within the G/O Media empire during the recent strike) that many of the writers are required to live and work in the NYC area.

An area famously inhospitable to private car ownership.

Wage and living standards notwithstanding, that’s fine for the other culture related sites within the G/O empire. But when you have a website dedicated to cars, it should follow that those writers have an open mind regarding cars.

I know that when I, as an automotive enthusiast, go to read something about cars, I’d rather NOT get a scolding about being an automotive enthusiast. I’m sure there are many other places to which I can direct my aging eyeballs if I wanted to make myself feel guilty about not taking the bus to work – even though any bus journey to my office, seven miles from home, would take roughly four hours on a bus and about 5 miles of walking. These days I only stumble upon Jalopnik on accident, never by design. And that’s a shame, as they have a legacy of nurturing new talent and running some great stories.

Down to the meat of some of the comments – the Hummer EV is a big-ass truck. For an EV, it’s not particularly efficient at converting energy into forward motion. It’s rather oversized for an urban area. If you, as a pedestrian, were to get run over by a Hummer EV, it’d probably hurt more than some other vehicles.

Consider the famous “View of the World from 9th Avenue” illustration from The New Yorker. Exaggerated as it is, you often get the feeling that myopia regarding anything beyond the Palisades (not talking the Hyundai here) is alive and well.

The Hummer EV is not for the Brooklyn Tesla driver. It’s for those people in the third world (i.e. anywhere cornstalks outnumber people) where alternatively-fueled vehicles haven’t reached a critical mass.

Out here, we don’t have the infrastructure to support the charging of thousands of EVs. But get enough EVs into the driveways of those who have the means, the desire, and the influence to make things happen – namely, the millionaire small biz owner in Iowa or Texas who buys a Hummer EV instead of their next F150 Platinum or Sierra Denali. Those people, as unseemly as it feels, are the ones who pull the strings in the city halls and state capitols of most states not on the coasts.

This is how you start a revolution in the marketplace – by building things people want.

Unfortunately, we seem to have stumbled upon an “EVs for me, not for thee” situation. Now that the deplorables want something, it’s suddenly a bad thing.

I don’t want a Hummer EV for myself. I’ve no need for what it can do. I’m sure, however, that within 5-10 years I’ll be in the market for SOMETHING that isn’t strictly powered by an internal combustion engine. When that time comes, I want infrastructure in place so I can USE that alternatively-fueled conveyance with as little hassle as can be. That can only happen locallyl, as any federal unfunded mandate will be met with swift and brutal pushback.

On the local level, the people driving the big pickup trucks will make things happen..and if they want to drive their badass Hummer EVs, they’ll make charging stations happen without “them damned socialists in Washington and New York City.”

Yeah, I’d like lower fuel prices. I’m not certain that lowering the use of one non-renewable fuel will necessarily be a sustainable method to lower transportation costs across the board long-term, especially as we still generate much of the electricity we need to power EVs via non-renewable sources.

But that’s a problem for tomorrow America. Let the younger generation deal with it.

[lead image courtesy GMC/Hummer. Image in embedded tweet via Jalopnik.com]

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