Welcome to our debate on the future of car propulsion. We’ve collected both sides of the argument for and against electric cars, from everyday drivers and enthusiasts. You can read the rebuttal to this piece here.
There’s nothing quite like putting your foot down and connecting with a big V8 engine. Hearing the snorting and growling of the exhaust, shifting through the gears, feeling your connection with the steering wheel as a conduit to the road beneath you – it just never gets old. There aren’t many things that make you feel as alive or make me as happy as piloting a car with a dynamic internal combustion engine.
But as we race towards the year 2020 facing very real, immediate, and long-term environmental challenges, the thought that we might only be driving electric vehicles (or letting them do the driving for us) is the zeitgeist of the current automotive universe. I, for one, reject this trend and still believe there is a place for the gasoline engine.
Gasoline will be here for decades to come
On the coasts it seems inevitable that the climate police will eventually come and take away our internal combustion engines to replace them with rolling beard trimmers. However, despite manufacturers understandably and reasonably putting massive amounts of resources into R&D and marketing for alternative propulsion technologies, there is no magical switch that will be flipped tomorrow and we will not be waking up to the horror of a plug-in station in our garages where our flat-six 911, V8 Mustang, or inline-six M3 was just the day before.
It is no surprise that there are those out there that are aggressively pushing the electric and autonomous agenda and even dreaming of living in some horrible dystopian world without cars. But back in the reality of where we are in 2019, it is not realistic to claim that cars with internal combustion engines will disappear in the coming decades. Indeed, at the moment EVs account for just 2% of the domestic automotive sales figures.
Cars culture is still engine culture
While people and technology continue to evolve (ok – maybe more technology than people) there is still a real passion and emotional connection to gasoline cars that is deeply rooted this country. Whether an Indy Car race in Alabama, a NASCAR race in Texas, a BimmerFest gathering in California, or a local Cars and Coffee gathering, the one uniting factor is the passion and obsession with cars. It is possible that you could find a Tesla or a Volt at one of these events, but if you listen closely, you’ll find that the conversations at these events typically revolves around things like cylinders and horsepower ratings, what mods were done on a classic GTO, or the nuances between an E30 M3 and an E30 M3 Evo — not how many miles Darryl got from a single overnight charge.
There is an inherent irony that on the left and right coasts, where the cult of the electric car is strongest, there are also some of the world’s most dynamic, immersive, and extraordinarily passionate car cultures. Southern California boasts arguably the largest, most diverse and robust car culture in the world. While Tesla is certainly emerging as the new Prius in Los Angeles, my soul is comforted every day driving around surrounded by brilliant supercars, gorgeous low-riders, supercharged wagons, and every variation on a classic or new Porsche that has ever been built. Some outsiders or nay-sayers may look at this as ridiculous or superfluous, but there are still thumbs-up shared between drivers of cool, unique, or downright crazy cars on the streets of LA. This is an eclectic and diverse group of people that all celebrate the same thing – the absolute love of cars.
Passion will keep gasoline alive
It is without question that the way cars with gasoline engines exist in the immediate future has to be reimagined. What automakers such as Porsche, Volvo, BMW, Acura, Ferrari and McLaren are doing with hybrid technology is inspiring and indicates that we will still be able to experience high levels of performance while further minimizing environmental impact.
It is unfathomable that the car community will let gasoline power go the way of the VCR.
There have been many ideas on how to minimize the number of cars with internal combustion engines — including taxes, tolls, banning cars from city centers, or swapping car lanes for bike lanes. All of these are highly possible, and would force passionate car enthusiasts to find newer, more responsible, more thoughtful ways to celebrate the internal combustion engine. Even with all this pressure, it is unfathomable that the car community will let gasoline power go the way of the VCR.
The emotion car enthusiasts feel about their rides often borders on anthropomorphism. We name them, we fight about them, we stare at them, we obsessively clean them, we sometimes curse them, we dream about them, and we love the experience of driving them. Cars have literally and figuratively taken us through our lives and often are the physical representations of important life milestones. They are a means to join your friends or escape on a solo road trip adventure. Of course, an electric car can take you on a road trip and undoubtedly, many drivers passionate about the internal combustion engine drive a hybrid as a commuter car, but it is the gasoline engine that remains the heart and soul of car culture.
This matters – car culture matters – as our world becomes more digitized, computerized, and polarized. We need to celebrate and embrace the internal combustion engine as a means to connect us in a tangible and emotional way.
Before your eyes start rolling, this isn’t a bury-your-head-in-the-sand statement. We can all recognize that the tides are turning. However, maybe this is just what true car enthusiasts need. For those on the fence or on a Tesla waitlist, those that view cars as solely a means of transportation, and those that drive around with piles of week-old fast food containers and tissue boxes in the rear window, please feel free to peel off and be transported by the soulless self-driving toasters of the future. That leaves the rest of us – the pure enthusiasts – to form a stronger bond as we celebrate and preserve the internal combustion engine. While manufacturers will produce fewer gasoline-powered cars, it will be the enthusiasts that will support and encourage them as they keep evolving, pushing the envelope in terms of performance, design and extracting more efficient power.
Regardless of what happens with electric cars, the combustion engine enthusiast community will continue to join forces every Sunday morning. We will thumbs-up at the vintage beauty cruising by us, and will push our ballistic missiles down the track. We will continue to support local car clubs or get out to a sports car or Indy Car race at a track nearby. While the rest of the masses are transported, isolated in soulless electric boxes, we will continue to love the driving experience of turning flammable liquid into noise and speed.
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