Listen Up, GM, and Tone It Down

Have you seen GM’s new video about how the Volt functions? It’s a good, clear, basic explanation. But it delivers a message that really steams me. It blithely advises that “you won’t have to adjust your life” with an extended range vehicle. Oh thank God.

Clearly GM means to draw a comparison to an all-electric car, which will just turn your life upside down, people, probably cause you to lose your job and default on your home loan. Your children won’t be safe anymore.

Don’t get me wrong. I happen to really like Volt-to-be. I may be a sidewalk-protesting, placard-waving EV fanatic with 78,000 all-EV miles on my RAV4-EV, but I think the Volt may well be the big winner, at least initially, in the brave new world of electric drive.

Why? Because people are scared and people are stubborn. I’m a people myself, so I know this. We’re scared of running out of juice and being stranded on the side of some dangerous, dark highway, a dead battery in our cell phone, to boot.

But with a little gas in your Voltaic back-pocket, that’ll never happen. There’s no fear and no need to give up that stubborn attachment to what you know.

Now, once a whole bunch of all-electrics hit the road, the fear will subside. People will wake up: gee, if Jo and Marge don’t get electrocuted in this new fangled thing, maybe gas-free driving is a good idea.

But back to GM s new video. Sure, you could say I’m nitpicking, that it was only a single throwaway line. But in order to ease and speed the adoption of plug-in vehicles, be they EREVs, PHEVs or EVs, everybody s got to get real and drop the unrealistic, exaggerated hype like the idea that consumers will “have to adjust” their lives by driving a car with a plug. My Garage Sound StudioSM

Sure, I’ve had to make a small adjustment with my RAV4-EV. I’ve have to plan a bit more, to make sure the car’s charged up for the next day’s travels, because public charging hasn’t been as widespread as it will soon be.

Come to think of it, though, I guess I have had to make other adjustments.

I’ve had to meet new people, all those friendly, curious folk who marvel as I park and charge at the market, the park, or, like last Saturday, the museum. “Is that an electric car?” they ask incredulously. It’s the look of hope they’ve got on their shining faces, you know. I’ve also “had to” learn to live with far less self-recrimination: I’m not leaving the planet’s fate to anybody else anymore, I’m not contributing to national insecurity, I’m not sending my energy dollars overseas, and I’m not adding to the numbers of lung disease or cancer cases along L.A. s freeways.

Come to think of it, I had to do a lot more planning when my husband had cancer. Lots of time spent in the hospital instead of at work or doctor visits and chemo treatments to arrange and all.

So, listen up, GM: can we have a little perspective, please A little planning isn t a life adjustment, it’s a tiny price to pay for an enormous, lasting benefit, and all this will probably be moot when public charging stations proliferate, anyway.

As we used to say: we don’t have to plug in, we get to. I don’t have to adjust my life, I get to. I hope you get the chance to, too.

— Zan Dubin Scott

(Photo of Zan plugging in by Paul Scott)

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