Electric car technology belongs on interstate highways X

This month I heard an interesting National Public Radio program about electric cars and the planning process for expanding their potential.

The focus was on national efforts to establish a system of charging stations along interstate highways, with stations spaced about 50 miles apart. It involves a goal to make it feasible to travel long distances on electricity.

There was just one thing that disappointed me about the program. The reporter kept doubling back on the idea of concentrating electric car investment in major cities, places with the largest number of drivers.

Usually I find NPR’s reporting insightful. It’s far better than much of what’s out there. It goes a long way toward refuting nonsense and misinformation.

The electric car interview was a rare instance when an NPR spokesperson seemed close minded about a bold new idea.

The interstate highways were built on a vision back in the 1950s. They were created alongside a belief that society in the future would be more mobile.

It led to overall benefits for many rural communities. Service stations, restaurants, motels and sometimes other businesses sprang up next to the highways. It also created the possibility that a share of the traffic might venture into a downtown business district.

Now almost 70 years later the electric car could spur a strong reinvestment. It’s important that a planning process goes forward now, so that it’s ready to implement as technology develops.

There’s still a high amount of skepticism about electric vehicles. Issues continue to be raised about ways their performance might not measure up.

Some are concerned about ability to function in cold weather. Others point to questions about maintenance costs and life span of mechanical components. There’s more of a comfort level with traditional gas powered engines.

Even so, electric cars are unlikely to go away. They’re driven by the high cost of depending on foreign oil, as well as the growing amount of evidence that we’re in the midst of climate change.

Massive wildfires in the West, floods in a variety of locations, and severe storms in coastal states all indicate that man made factors are contributing to rapidly changing conditions.

Earth has gone through natural cycles before, but there’s no known instance of conditions changing so much in less than 50 years. Each new serious weather event adds to the evidence.

It suggests that we need fundamental change in the way we consume resources. Reduced emissions from passenger vehicles is a start. It will have a greater impact if it extends beyond metropolitan areas.

Rural regions shouldn’t decline to the point that they become fly-over country or get converted into a buffalo commons.

Instead they have potential to provide good living conditions for higher numbers of people. It’s especially true if computer technology reaches its full potential, if a larger share of workers gain the ability to work from anywhere.

It might someday make sense to have zero growth zones around urban centers. The creation of urban sprawl and commuting between suburbs has caused transportation issues that worsen the quality of life for millions of commuters.

Large amounts of fuel get wasted in traffic jams. Many people spend an hour or more every day going to and from workplaces. After a long day, they often just want to unwind at home.

The demand for alternatives might grow simply because of those lifestyle reasons. The fact that our resources are limited makes electric cars and rural vitality even more important. We need steps that will help to sustain our planet for future generations.

— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent


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