Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic candidate for President of the United States, participated in a Climate Change Town Hall on CNN last night, which was hosted by Anderson Cooper.
Towards the end of the event, Cooper asks Sanders about transitioning the US to cleaner electric cars. That in itself isn't a surprise, because one would expect electric cars to be a topic of discussion in a climate discussion since it's a commonly-held belief that switching to EVs is an integral part of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, a leading cause of greenhouse gas.
However, it's how Cooper asked Sanders that's raised some eyebrows. The question put to Sanders went like this (21:20 mark in the video above):
"How do you manage to get people to relinquish, you know, the car they love, for an electric car that may be slower, or less powerful initially, and more expensive"
Oh, Anderson, really? Framed that way, people listening to the broadcast get the impression that the government will soon be prying their white-knuckled fingers from the steering wheel of the current car they love and forcing them into something like a 70's era electric Sebring-Vanguard CitiCar.
It's understandable why Cooper brought up the possibility of initially paying more for an EV, because that is still the case (it won't be for long). However, over the lifetime of the vehicle, when incentives, fuel and maintenance costs are factored in, most of the time the EV is less expensive than a comparable gasoline or diesel vehicle. So I really can't fault him on bringing up the initial cost of the vehicle.
Listening to Anderson Cooper's question, I couldn't help but immediately think of the Simpsons electric car episode.
To infer that EVs are slower and less powerful than conventionally-fueled vehicles is, in my opinion really inexcusable; I expect better from Cooper. I might expect a comment like this from a less reliable political talk show personality, like Tucker Carlson of the Fox News Network, but hearing it come from Cooper was disappointing.
Electric vehicles outperform conventionally-fueled vehicles in just about every way, except driving range and refueling speed, and those gaps are quickly closing. The instant torque of an EV simply cannot be matched by combustion engines. EVs are quicker, quieter, smoother and more pleasant to drive.
The unfortunate thing is that millions of people who watched the Town Hall last night may now have that image of big government coming to take away the car they love, and replacing it with one they won't, in an effort to save the planet. Nothing could be further than the truth. I've always maintained that people will switch to EVs because they are better vehicles, not because they are medicine for an ailing planet.
Once people get the opportunity to drive an EV, they will quickly prefer it over the gasser they currently drive. Sanders immediate answer to the question was to offer incentives. Another fail. He just perpetuated the mindset that we must pay people to take these inferior vehicles. Yes, incentives play a role in advancing EVs, because they still have a higher up-front cost, and many families can't afford the couple thousand-dollar extra expense. However, the power and driving experience is not an impediment to mass EV adoption. It's too bad that point was overlooked last night.