“Out of the crooked timber of humanity,
No straight thing was ever made.”
Whilst “carbon” might merely be a convenient scapegoat for the zombified secular religion known as “industrialised capitalism” as we know it today, it’s worthwhile considering some of the more practical (and positive!) factors at play in the full-court press towards electric vehicles. While a pure-EV future certainly isn’t anything approaching “inEVitable” within the next century, even a marginal shift towards zero-tailpipe-emission transportation will have benefits. So let’s put on our glass-half-full hats and dig in!
The following are 7 unexpected benefits that can (and very likely will) be accrued to society by EV market growth:i
1. Less urban air pollution: Under-appreciated only because it’s been so normalised in industrialised “forest-fire-managed” societies to choke on black soot all the time, air pollution makes us dumber, sicker, and poorer. It’s seriously no bueno. And since we’re more and more urbanised as a species,ii less air pollution where most of the people are spending most of their time would be a very, very Good Thing.
2. Less urban sprawl: While the Broadacre City thesis has its merits, the returns to serendipity afforded by urban density knows no replacement. So with more limited driving ranges, longer charging times typical of EVs, and immature charging infrastructure as yet,iii the reduced capacity of these vehicles as long-distance transport will tip the scales in favour of more urban density at the margin.iv This should lead to more pleasant (and walkable?) neighbourhoods that go at least some ways towards reducing the anxiety inherent in atomised modernism.
3. More infrastructure investment: With the added mass of EVs degrading our roads and bridges more quickly than ever before, more construction and engineering jobs will be needed (and created?) to repair and replace this prematurely aging infrastructure. Broken windows economics, baby! Then there’s the vehicle manufacturing, charging network, and grid upgrade investments that will be needed, some of which is already well underway. While the new factories won’t bring back the American “glory days” of the 1950s since these new 21st century facilities will be largely automated, human labour and ingenuity will still be required to design and build all these new factories and the robots inside; likewise with the vast new charging network stations and grid upgrades required to sustain even a marginal growth in EV usage.v
4. More financialised colonialism: While EVs are currently more expensive to produce that ICE vehicles, like any other example of micro-electronics that’s given enough time and enough scale, eventually prices go down and margins go up, meaning that automobile manufacturers (and their shareholders) will soon be richer than ever. Of course, we Global Northerners will just be the ones designing, marketing, and reaping paper profits on these new gizmos while East Asian factories fueled by cheap peasant labour keep manufacturing our components and recycling our refuse, but hey “we just wanted” etc.! And as long as we keep the aircraft carriers and they keep the fishing dinghies, all’s fair in love and war.
5. Less (local) oil demand: While global oil demand could paradoxically rise in the future due to developing nations buying more cars (due to their faster population growth as well as cheaper oil prices resulting from Global North EVification), the wealthier global regions embracing EVs will be able to decrease their geopolitical dependency on foreign oil-producing nations and thereby foster greater local autonomy.
6. More wargames: Since so much of human organisation (and culture) has evolved directly from wargames, it’s only fitting that we use EV adoption as a testbed for the rapid construction of wartime industries and crafting of public consensus, both of which will be only-too-necessary for the resolution of our Fourth Turning moment.
7. More moral superiority: Last but certainly not least, since we’re such a socially-obsessed species – driven as we are by domination over one another as much as any “higher calling” – once a few elites have decided that something is “superior,” the rest of us lemmings pile into it almost no matter how stupid it is, be it circumcision or speccing sport bucket seats. So it is with EVs, which will allow us to feign moral “progress” quite in spite of our largely stagnant, if not outright deteriorating, world of atoms.
So there you have it! Seven practical (and positive?) benefits that we’re very likely to accrue in the EV-enabled world of the near-future, even if only at the margin. So maybe the future will be alright? Certainly the glass is half-full!
“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot;
but make it hot by striking.”
~William Butler Yeats
[Image credit: Autoevolution (1)]
- At least in The Global North, ie. the wealthier countries reading this blog! Gotta pander to dat audience innit. ↩
- Though the urban vs. rural dispute rages ever onward. ↩
- If your user interface is bad enough to get Mr. Shmee “One Take of Sunshine” 150 pissed off, it’s really not ready for prime time.
- I agree wholeheartedly with T. Cowen that “At the margin, people should use “at the margin” more.” ↩
- It cannot be stressed enough just how far ahead of the game Elon is with his manufacturing capacity as well as charging network reliability and ease-of-use. That so many other carmakers will begin using Tesla’s Supercharger network and switch over to the plug-in hardware required starting in 2025 is further proof that most consumers care more about convenience on road trips than vehicle build quality, and that Tesla’s heavy early bets in this direction were bang on the money. It’s only the select few of us who charge at home every night that have the distinct “privilege” of choosing build quality above other considerations. Lucky us! ↩