We drive electric because we believe that the future can be better.
I know it’s a little hard to think about the future right now, when our COVID present is feeling pretty grim and we have utterly no idea how long it will go on. We are all stuck at home, trying to make the best of the situation, worrying whether we and our friends and family will get this horrible disease (or already have the disease). And at the same time dealing with complete financial uncertainty for ourselves and indeed our whole society.
It’s an odd time to be thinking about the future, climate change, clean air, and clean energy. But it’s what we are doing, we—the EV drivers at Plug In America. Our EVs are mostly parked right now. But we still believe in what they stand for.
There are a number of important impacts from this pandemic we are having that tie back to some bigger and more fundamental issues.
First, the air has gotten so clean. I live in Los Angeles, so when it’s a blazing hot 86 degrees out (as it was this past week) and the sky is radiant blue, we notice. That is not a normal thing here. And in fact, around the world, people have noticed dramatic improvements in air quality and discovered mountains that weren’t previously visible.
Second, it’s gotten so quiet with all of the ICE vehicles parked. In my neighborhood, there are hardly any cars. Instead, there are children playing on the sidewalk, roaming bands of families on bikes, and joggers and dog-walkers maintaining their social distancing. As more Americans switch to EVs, we will hear fewer roaring engines in our neighborhoods, allowing us to instead hear the pleasant sounds of people and nature.
Third, we’ve now learned that our bad air quality actually makes us more vulnerable to COVID. We’ve known for a long time that bad air means more children are going to school with asthma inhalers and a whole list of other negative public health impacts. So this additional news is just the icing on that particular public health cake.
Fourth, people have shown themselves remarkably willing to make profound lifestyle changes because of the danger that COVID presents to them and their families. Al Gore told us that climate change was an inconvenient truth. But the inconvenient changes that climate change requires of us are nothing compared to what we are doing now to rid ourselves of COVID. They are a flea on the back of an elephant. The fact that people are willing and able to make such big and hugely inconvenient changes shows me that we are entirely capable of making the much more modest changes needed to address climate change. And perhaps now we will be more willing to do that.
Fifth, the bigger world has gotten scary, uncertain, and unpredictable. The past gives us a little guide as to how we should act or what will come next. For the first time, people are having a taste of what it might feel like when some of the bigger impacts of climate change come home to us in a few years.
Sixth, COVID has reminded us that being completely dependent on a complex, global supply chain is not always such a great thing. (Think shortages of masks, medicine, testing kits, etc.) Petroleum has the world’s biggest, most complex, and messiest supply chain, spanning the globe. As it happens, there is no shortage of petroleum now—in fact, quite the opposite—but it happens all the time when political events across the world lead to sudden price jumps at the gas pump. Renewable electricity is locally produced (ideally on your roof) and prices are stable.
I find myself wondering how we can retain some of the good things that the pandemic has revealed and knowledge that we have gained, while still hoping and praying that we can move forward from this as quickly and safely as we can. And that ties back to the reasons we drive our EVs—reasons that are even more valid and urgent than they were before we all learned about social distancing.
A world in which ICE vehicles and petroleum have been swapped out for EVs and clean energy will be a world with a lot more blue skies and a lot more quiet. It will be a world in which we have taken to heart some of the tough lessons about clean air, climate change, and public health and the choices that we need to make to ensure a good future for the next generation.
Despite everyone’s sudden laser-beam focus on our day-to-day struggle with COVID, we EV drivers still imagine that world, and we hope you will join us.