Regulars and Shorts, Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: June 2013

By Dennis Hinkamp

Living electric.
—by Dennis Hinkamp

Earlier this year after about 27 straight days of not being able to see across the valley, something snapped in my brain. I looked around for a futile yet demonstrative act to clear the air; so I decided to lease an electric car. In truth an electric car has always been further up my bucket list than the usual guy-list Ford F-350 with the chrome lady silhouettes on the mud flaps. Now just seems the time to do it.

I considered solar panels but because the projected financial break-even point is longer than my projected remaining years of life and because I hadn’t seen the sun

in 27 days solar didn’t hold much appeal. Likewise, the idea of a 50-foot-high wind generation tower was rejected because it would annoy the neighbors.

Turns out that buying a car is one of the most complex purchases we make whether it is electric or a monster truck. There is little hope that it is an investment and there are no tax deductions. Driving a car until it falls apart has some bohemian appeal but then you have to consider safety and reliability. Buying a new car ensures a 20% loss of value the minute you drive off the lot while buying a used car is a minefield of potential problems.

There aren’t many rational approaches to buying a car. The best thing that you could do for the environment is not to get a car at all. Of course the very best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to never leave the house, turn on a light or consume anything not grown in your back yard. A car will always be associated with freedom and style just as children are associated with blessings and tax deductions. The best decision is probably to do whatever makes you happy and try not to run into or over anyone. So yeah I got the all-electric car made by Nissan; that’s as much of an advertisement as I want to give.

So 1,300 miles later, these are the lessons learned from the electric car.

1. Range anxiety is real. There are only a few places in the country where you would have to drive more than 50 miles to get gasoline and if you are really worried you can easily carry an extra 10 gallons in your trunk or the back of your bumper. Unless you want to tow a big generator around it’s hard to bring along extra electricity. In the imagined Jetsons’ future there will be quick charge stations spaced out just like gas stations. The catch is that even what is considered a quick charge would be an intolerable wait at a gas station. The only way I see this working is if all the charging stations have their own Starbucks. You will not drive an all-electric car across the country or even Utah any time soon.

2. You plan more when you drive an electric car. If you are really trying to save miles, you plan your trip rather than zigzagging around town. While slow traffic and waiting at lights are still annoying you can at least rest assured that you are not wasting gas or adding to pollution because an electric car doesn’t idle

3. You will end up driving more. Because it almost feels like you are driving a light bulb, you are freed from the guilt of driving to the grocery store for a single bag of apples or to the gym for a 20-minute workout. You might even just cruise around on a Sunday afternoon to take photos of baby animals. Like many of my peer group, I used to think pleasure driving was as evil as dumping used motor oil in the Logan River. Now I look at it as testing new technology.

Dennis Hinkamp can be seen driving around with a smug look on his face just about any day of the week.

This article was originally published on May 29, 2013.