OPINION: Electric vehicles could change our culture

Carl Lisek, Exeuctive Director of South Shore Clean Cities, dicusses how electric vehicles can impact the cullture of our modern day society.

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electric vehicle culture

By Carl Lisek

Carl Lisek, Executive Director of South Shore Clean Cities, discusses how electric vehicles could change the culture of our modern day society.

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Have you seen the YouTube videos of kids trying to figure out how to use a rotary phone?

For those of us old enough to remember rotary phones, it’s fun to watch as the kids push the numbers or try figure out what this ancient machine is all together.

While it may be hard to envision now, today’s kids who struggle to comprehend a rotary phone may have children of their own who someday do the same thing with a gasoline pump.

Volkswagen’s Electrify America charging station initiative recently debuted the “Normal Now” ad campaign that compares electric vehicle charging to the early days of the internet, email and online dating.  To emphasize the point, the Website is designed to look like a primitive, pixelated site from the early days of the Internet.

“New technology always seems weird at first,” the Website reads. “Take electric cars. They may seem a little different. But with faster recharging times, longer vehicle ranges, and lots of models to choose from, they’re just like driving a typical gas-powered car.”

Currently, EVs make up just over 2 percent of passenger vehicles sold in the U.S., with the figure exceeding the 2 percent mark for the first time in July 2018. In October 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy reported the nation passed the benchmark of 1 million plug-in EVs sold. U.S. electric vehicle sales were up 81 percent in 2018 over 2017 figures as well.

This summer, Bloomberg predicted that by 2040, electric vehicles will outsell gasoline-powered vehicles. It’s not surprising, given every automaker in the world is adding electric vehicles to their lineups, with some pledging to go all electric in the not-so-distant future.

With more electric vehicles on the road, the infrastructure and other systems to support them will be changing as well.

Maurice Minno, a 40-year veteran of the convenience store industry and founder of MPM Group, told Convenience Store News this summer he anticipates alternative fuels, electric vehicles and autonomous electric delivery vehicles completely changing the convenience store and fueling stations we see on nearly every corner.

“The preponderance of driverless vehicles (commercial delivery, as well as passenger vehicles) will result in new technology-enabled, full-service refueling forecourts with dedicated alternative fuel vehicle lanes for speedy and unencumbered access and return to the highway,” Minno said. “Alternative fuel vehicle popularity will result in the reinvention of the traditional (convenience) store forecourt to the forecourt-of-the-future. The forecourt will evolve to a newly created design that enables the speedy access and refueling/recharging of customers’ alternative fuel vehicles.”

And what will our auto shop classes and garages look like? It makes me think of the movie “Grease,” with John Travolta’s character Danny and his fellow T-Birds performing “Greased Lightning” while wearing oil-stained coveralls in their filthy shop class before the scene transitions to a slick fantasy sequence with a bright shiny hot rod in a pristine white garage and the T-Birds wearing silver space-age jumpsuits.

When you think of a high school automotive class, do you envision the oil-stained coveralls or the high-tech version? What do you think will the norm for the next generation?

You can get a glimpse of the future today at our National Drive Electric Week Ride & Drive with our partner the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. September 19 at their office at 6100 Southport Road in Portage. We’ll have a variety of electric vehicles on display and available for test drives. Local dealerships as well as electric vehicle owners themselves will be on hand to share their experiences.

Remember, it’s never too late to being your environmental legacy.

This column originally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

If you enjoyed reading Carl Lisek’s discussion on the impact of electric vehicles on culture, check out his other article on alternative fuels and how they can help in natural disasters here.

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