University towns have lots of advantages. Ours, Boulder, Colorado, is home to the main campus of the University of Colorado (C.U.), the state’s flagship institution of higher education. Every April for decades now, C.U. offers a weeklong gift called the Conference on World Affairs. Public figures join academic and lay experts on panels or give keynote speeches on topics related to current events. This year, unsurprisingly, many of the dozens of presentations focused on the war in Ukraine. The thousands who attend these free offerings come not only from the Boulder area but from around the country and even from abroad. A year or two before the pandemic, I attended a keynote on the future of electric vehicles.
Our presenter, a specialist on green energy and its uses, began by projecting two photographs on the large screen behind him. (We attendees were seated in the University’s capacious Macky Auditorium.) The first showed New York’s Fifth Avenue in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1900. Parked on both sides of the street were long lines of horses and buggies. Among them was one lone automobile. The second picture, taken in the same location, was from 1920. This time there were parked automobiles on either side and among them one lone horse and buggy. Our lecturer went on to say that given how quickly technology can change a society’s material culture, by 2030, he believed, cities throughout the country would have similar lines of electric vehicles (EVs) with only the occasional internal-combustion car (ICE) in their midst.
An early adopter of new technology like my father, I persuaded my wife eight years ago into our getting an EV. We leased a white Nissan Leaf. We didn’t want to buy, since I was convinced the technology would change rapidly, and I didn’t want us to get stuck with older tech. Then, when Elon Musk opened reservations for the new, “affordable” Tesla Model 3, we quickly plunked down our $1,000 deposit. Some 28 months later, on August 22, 2018, we picked up our “arrest-red” Tesla. We had opted for the extended-range model despite the four-figure surcharge. The Leaf had been a wonderful car, but its 100-mile range made it a town car. Our Model 3 with more than triple that would allow us to take it on our road trips from Boulder to Albuquerque, NM, Mill Valley, CA, and Hartford, CT. There were plenty of Tesla Superchargers along the way, typically in mall parking lots, so that we could grab a coffee, shop, or eat lunch during the 45 minutes it took to charge up. Not only that, but we have saved at least half on fuel costs since our Tesla is EPA-rated at 115 MPG equivalent, nearly triple that of the average “legacy vehicle.” And in nearly four years of ownership, we have spent zero on maintenance, since EVs have only 200 moving parts versus 2,000+ in internal-combustion cars. In addition, since we purchase wind and solar power from Excel Energy, we have no so-called long tailpipe. So, if you think this is a pitch for EVs, you’re right. The good news is, continued innovation coupled with world-wide competition will soon drive the cost of these vehicles down, their range up, and their charging time to comparability with refueling gas-powered cars. So, my friends, come join this 82-year-old in driving the future. You’ll be glad you did.