Dave Reid
Car Culture

Electric Charging Stations, Texting and Driving Part Deux, Weekend Fun, and More.

In this edition of Car Culture, just how green are electric cars? Plus, more on texting and driving, and the other side of “pleasure driving.”

By - May 11th, 2012 01:30 pm
Car Culture

Car Culture

In this edition of Car Culture, just how green are electric cars? Plus, more on texting and driving, and the other side of “pleasure driving.”

Electric Charging Stations

The City of Milwaukee is beginning to install electric charging stations at multiple locations around town in an attempt to promote and support electric vehicles.  With the dual threats of climate change and peak oil bearing down on us, moving away from gasoline, and back, yes back, to electric vehicles is long overdue.  The use of electric cars may reduce our dependency on oil, and in the long run (over decades) could reduce or eliminate auto emissions, but electric car technology is at this point far from perfect.

Sure, the concept of a green and clean electric car sounds wonderful, but it doesn’t actually exist.  One day could these electric cars could run on 100% renewable energy, but unfortunately, in Milwaukee today they will be using electricity generated by the dirtiest coal fired electrical plant in Wisconsin.  We Energies has made noise about converting to cleaner, not clean, natural gas, which would help make our air cleaner and electric cars greener, but we are not there yet.

And even if these charging stations and our homes are one day putting out power that is 100% renewable an electric car still won’t be completely green, it won’t be any safer than any gas guzzling Impala, and doesn’t solve the land-use issues created by a car-oriented America.  The green credentials of an electric car come up a bit short as approximately 50% of the pollution generated by a car comes during  its manufacturing and disposal.  Safer?  No, people will simply get behind the wheel of an electric, instead of fossil fueled, car and proceed to crash into things and or people when drunk.  And finally, land will continue to be gobbled up for parking, expansive roadways will continue to divide neighborhoods and cover over farmland, and these cars will only further our auto-dependent lifestyle by encouraging us to sprawl further and further apart.

Texting and Driving Part Deux

In the first edition of Car Culture I mentioned that Wisconsin teenagers were gathering to learn about the dangers of texting and driving. I believe the video below should have been required viewing at that meeting.  The video comes from Belgium where a few new drivers got punked, and learned an invaluable lesson when they were informed they had to pass the “mobile phone test.” They all failed miserably when put to the “test,” showing just how dangerous it can be to text and drive.  One of the punked drivers wraps up the message saying, “It’s too dangerous.” I agree.

Weekend Fun

A recent blog post on the First Weber website suggests taking a drive for some fun this weekend.  On the surface it seems innocuous, but it is yet another example of how the automobile, which primarily is a tool to get from A to B, has become something more.  I’ll admit it, when I was 16 “going for a drive” was a fun way to spend a weekend eventing.  I understand now that while driving around aimlessly can be fun, but it can also be wasteful, costly, and pointless.  Yes, we do have a car culture, as you can see from the following accidents of the week:

Dangerous Roads

Loosen Your Belt to Cure Obesity

You can’t reduce congestion by building more roads. But we’re still doing it.

Tweet of the Week


Traffic engineers used to remove street trees, because they were dangerous to automobile drivers.  I’m glad to see the Tempe Police understand trees aren’t the issue.

Categories: Car Culture

4 thoughts on “Car Culture: Electric Charging Stations, Texting and Driving Part Deux, Weekend Fun, and More.”

  1. Garrick Jannene says:

    I don’t see electric cars as a solution to anything. In most cases, they just move the point of pollution from the tailpipe to the smokestack. Also, unless some better form of storing electricity comes around to replace the chemical battery, we’re just going to be trading petroleum for rare earth metals in the big nonrenewable resource we’re going to run out of next.

    And, as you mentioned, much of a vehicle’s total pollution output comes from its production and destruction. I’ve even heard that the Jeep Wrangler is “greener” than a Prius dust-to-dust, because the manufacturing process on the Jeep (which hasn’t changed much at all in the past 50 years) has been streamlined that much.

    This doesn’t mean that other sort of alternative propulsion are off the hook though, as for almost all of them you still pollute and consume a finite resource. Hydrogen fuel cell is the only exception to this rule, but to make that feasible it’s going to take infrastructure commitments that quite honestly aren’t feasible in this country any more.

  2. Nick Aster says:

    Garrick – it’s true that electric cars powered by, say, coal do still indirectly contribute to pollution. However there have been many, many studies done that prove that it’s still far less than a gas vehicle – even if the power comes from coal.

    The impact of manufacturing is more debatable but there are also a lot of studies on it as well that generally favor the electric. I’ll google a few up if you can’t find ’em.

    Anyway, it’s clear the “solution” if you will, will be a combination of technologies, and perhaps most importantly – making cities more livable so folks are not required to use a car for everything they do – regardless of what powers it!

  3. Jason Wittek says:

    Great to see alternative energy critiqued. Obviously there’s benefits, as pointed out, but far from being solutions to our transportation problems. It would take a heck of a lot of renewable energy solar panels to replace the 18 to 20 million barrels of oil a day powering our automobile transportation system. Urbanism and mass transit run on solar energy is the far better solution. Imagine if we only had electric interurban trains connecting Milwaukee all the way to the east coast. Oh wait, we did! Sadly, we are a lifetime away from seeing it again.

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