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The Great Electric Car Debate

from letters to the Auto-Free Times


Give the Beast a Chance

Dear Auto-Free Times,

It's very discouraging after working so hard on our new issue of Electrifying Times [an electric-car magazine] for me to then read this article by Richard Register in your own magazine.

We all share this ecotopic vision of cities. But we also must face the reality of the existing infrastructure. We're stuck with an economy of scale that must be downsized before it can be dismantled for something more equitable. Public transportation where I live is a pipe dream. The only people using it are maids and ground keepers. The closest stop is two miles away. So we need to create a stepping stone, an easy pill to swallow, so the network of asphalt can be receded.

That's the electric car. It's been hard enough getting the auto industry to this point in time where they've finally accepted the inevitable. The "Big Three" and the Japanese and European builders have been dragged kicking and screaming to the prospect of a world without the need for oil. At least with electric vehicles we could much more adequately control pollution. And as better technologies come into play, thanks to the newly found muscle of a young industry, the day might even come where tires themselves are no longer necessary.

Without a unified front against the dynasty barons, there will never be the economic momentum necessary to bring about this shift. The electric vehicle industry provides a transitional proposition that in time might result in a harmonious lifestyle for all.

Register is trying to slaughter the goose that could lay the golden eggs simply because he's afraid it won't lay any. Give the poor beast a chance.

Remy Chevalier
Asst. Editor, Electrifying Times
Weston, Conn.


Let the Beast Rust in Peace

Dear APM Readers,

I've seldom seen a more confused rationale than that of Remy Chevalier in defending the electric car. At least we should understand that the problem lies in the structure of the city itself.

I am doing my best to change the structure of the city so that cars will not be necessary just to get around. Making a different kind of car in no way changes that land use context, and therefore is not a transition away from automobile dependence.

What Remy Chevalier does not answer still remains a crucial question: If we are going to put that massive demand for energy that runs the automobiles of the world onto electricity, what is going to generate that absolutely gigantic flood of energy? Nuclear? Solar would be the best in terms of environmental impacts, but then again, why such a gigantic supply if we can begin to design compact, complex, biodiverse cities for fewer and fewer cars.

As to the notion that one should not be afraid of the electric car, there are few things more appropriately feared in life. I've lost several friends to bloody car wrecks and had many friends seriously injuredóthree this year. And not one of these car victims was burned by gasoline. That is, electric motors would have done the same job just fine, maybe better, since electric cars are quieter than their gas-powered sibling.

I am deeply depressed visiting the once gorgeous countryside I grew up beside, now speckled with houses and asphalt. The very land has been killed, along with my friends, and Chevalier says do not fear the automobile that runs merely on electricity! Who cares if the executioner eats cereal or eggs for breakfast. He's well worth avoiding.

Richard Register
President, Ecocity Builders, Inc.
Berkeley, Calif.


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Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit organization.