In a linguistics class, long ago, the professor (for reasons that escape me now), asked the students to list, in 5 minutes, as many names for “car” as they could come up with. You’d be amazed at the number there were ~ everything from “automobile” to “Fairlady Z.”
Whatever he may have been trying to teach, the exercise more than anything else, illustrated America’s love affair with cars. From American heavy metal to low-slug European sports cars to “eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus,” it’s a love affair that has gone on since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line.
Marketers make use of it when they imply that this car is a status symbol and that one a chick magnet. Songwriters write about having “no car, and it’s breaking my heart” to everybody meeting “down at Cadillac ranch.” Storytellers who assert that “cars are girls,” and moviemakers whose cars are characters, from the Bat-mobile to Greased Lightning.
The newest car on the block ~ or soon to be ~ is the Electric Car or EV (Electric Vehicle) ~ a more environmentally responsible car, powered by a rechargeable battery. The technology isn’t new ~ one only has to watch the movie Who Killed the Electric Car? to know that ~ and it isn’t clumsy or cumbersome or hard to adjust to ~ unless you think it will be hard to adjust to driving past gas station after gas station without having to stop and shell out money every 100-300 miles.
Who killed the electric car? Mostly big oil companies and car companies themselves, particularly GM, because they hadn’t yet squeezed the very last drop of money they could get from you with their gas guzzlers in yuppie car clothing.
Unfortunately, some of the more fervent car owners think they love those gas guzzlers ~ because they’ve been sold a bill of goods made up of nostalgia for cruising a la American Graffitti, the wholly fictitious measure of urbanites success being determined by their SUVs or Hummers, and/or the car owner whose virility is apparently illustrated by how loud, flashy, and fast his street rod (no pun intended).
There are some whose dismay is legitimate, not marketing-driven, like my son-in-law, who races stock nearly every weekend in the summer in a car he built and knows from the ground up. (Andy has been able to take apart and put back together, improved, any part of a stock car, practically since he could walk ~ if he lived on an island, he’d be dismantling and rebuilding faster and faster speedboats.) To these people, the electric car seems a threat to an integral part of American culture, the end of an era.
The thing is ~ it isn’t.
If anything is sure, it’s that the electric car as it exists now is not how all electric cars will be, forever and ever, world without end. I mean really ~ how many Model Ts are there on the road or race track today, outside of car shows? Model A’s? Nash Ramblers? Edsels? Corvairs? And that’s just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
Why should Electric Cars be any different? People have already converted combustion engine cars into high performance electric cars, and some with astonishing results.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out an association called NEDRA ~ the National Electric Drag Racing Association, one of it’s founding members, John “Plasma Boy” Wayland, and his White Zombie ~ a 1972 Datsun 1200 he converted into one of the fastest street legal electric cars in the world.
NEDRA was founded in 1997, when “ampheads from around the country gathered in the Wilde Evolutions’ offices in Jerome, Arizona for two days of intense meetings to iron out the bylaws and class divisions. Present were John “Plasma Boy” Wayland from Portland Oregon who became NEDRA’s first President, Roderick “Wildman” Wilde who became Vice President, Lou Tauber from Portland Oregon, who became the Secretary/Treasurer, Bill Dube, an engineer from Denver Colorado who became the National Tech Director who wrote all the safety rules, and Dean Grannes and Stephanie Matsumora from [here’s a surprise!] Fremont, California who took on the duties of webmaster and membership secretary.” (parenthetical text and emphasis added)
I’ve been to the website and it certainly doesn’t look like they’re missing anything.
In truth, the entrance of EVs into American culture isn’t the end of anything, including America’s love affair with the car ~ it’s simply the next step, the next iteration. In fact, EVs may eventually give us back some of the romance of the car in American culture ~ actually giving new life to the love affair ~ long may they run.
Long may you run.
Long may you run,
Although these changes
With your chrome heart shining
In the sun,
Long may you run.
See you on the green ~
Rebecca Longster is a writer, editor, and lover of words. She believes passionately that people can be healthier, wealthier, and happier living and working in harmony with the earth, and that doing so is a practical as well as a moral imperative. In addition to writing fiction and non-fiction, both for the web and for print publication, she currently teaches writing at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
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