Running around the city on a beautiful Sunday morning in mid-September, camera bag in one hand, tripod in the other; I was ready to embark on an adventure. To my surprise, I did not know that I was soon to meet the average American “heroes” in the fight against climate change. Arriving at the Capitol South Metro I had dramatized the “famous” National Plug in Day in my head as something comparable to a State Fair. Filled with tents and food, packed with people to the point where you had to barely squeeze by others just to continue walking into the densely packed crowds. However, walking off the escalator and onto 3rd street I called my partner in a desperate attempt to find this “promise-land”-esque crowded festive area, with balloons and music.
Before I knew it I had strolled right by my partner right there on the street. Naively I looked at her and asked “so where’s the event.” She smiled and responded, “Right here, didn’t you see?” As the look of excitement faded off my face and was replaced with a newfound sense of dismay I looked down 3rd street. I saw a small tent as well as Nissan Leaf after Leaf on the street, each with their owners’ proudly standing in front of them as if they were all in the State Fair contest for best pig. Ironic thing was that the cars are small and that D.C. is not a state, but that is besides the fact.
Continuing down the street my partner and I spotted what seemed to be an ordinary “Average American” couple. A taller older man with jeans and an electric car t-shirt and hat and a cute middle aged women with dark hair in jeans and a red shirt, nothing more All-American than that right? After introducing ourselves and explaining our class’s mission, they were more than wiling to jump right on camera and tell us al about how they came to purchase one of these little Japanese electric cars.
Finding out that they live just 32 miles outside of the city we found that the car really was a perfect fit for them. Primarily using the car for the husband’s commute 32 miles each way, the 110-mile electric limit would account perfectly for that particular commute. We learned that there are specific “charging stations” all around the city and outskirts as well as reserve external batteries that serve as an emergency source of energy when the car runs out of electricity.
As they proceeded to answer all of our questions, we found that the car gets better gas mileage in the city compared to the mileage it gets on the highway. That the average fully charged vehicle takes 12 hours to charge and is good for 110 miles. Economically speaking, the car in total cost nearly $40,000, however they received nearly $10,000 through state and federal incentive refund programs for clean energy.
Finding out a little more, we came to find out that the family owns 4 cars. 3 made prior to 2000, in fact all 3 models were made in 1996 and before. While in the car with them we were informed that nearly half of every single person’s carbon footprint comes from the vehicle, or vehicles they own. With this fact at hand, we came to question why did these people go to all this economic as well as logistical trouble to purchase a car while essentially not even making a dent in their own personal footprint.
While their hearts were in the right place, their actions essentially canceled each other out, as the effect on the environment could be numerically represented with ZERO, 0, NO CHANGE.
So WHY did the Yaney’s go to all this trouble? Was it to make themselves feel better about their footprint on the environment as they take their foot off the gas to some degree? Was it to save money? Or was it the right intentions that were simply misguided/misinformed?
This finally brings the question of whether electric cars are truly a solution to what lies ahead for the environment. SALES ARE LOWER than expected and production is expensive. They are only logical for those commuting short distances and are economically really only available to the middle to upper class. Getting to the root of the Leaf, while a plausible solution; is this electric car era simply a fad or a trend or a legitimate solution for the future. Only time will tell, but for now I am going to stick to my bicycle and public transportation.
That is all for now folks!
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-C. Weston Wood
*** ALL IMAGES ACCREDITED TO GOOGLE IMAGES