Muller: The time has come to embrace electric cars

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Muller: The time has come to embrace electric cars

Yoni Muller, Assistant Opinion Editor

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It’s a good month to be a nerd.

“Iron Man 3” hit theaters May 3 and is currently the 16th highest-grossing film of all time. This Friday, “Star Trek Into Darkness” will be released and make whatever money we as a people have left.

Most importantly, Tesla Motors is all over the news recently, vindicating the man people only today remember as a genius, while providing the opportunity to discuss how Thomas Edison was the world’s biggest choose-your-favorite-expletive.

This week alone, Tesla outsold comparable models by Mercedes, BMW and Audi; it was also given a 99 of 100 ranking from Consumer Reports, making it the highest-rated car the company has ever reviewed. This means two things – the Tesla Model S is clearly an amazing car that should make us reflect on the state of electric cars in America, and clearly nobody from Consumer Reports has ever driven my grill-less, stall-prone, perfect 2000 Ford Taurus. Those fools.

Indeed, Tesla’s remarkable success ought to make us question why we are so reluctant to embrace the technology. My friend Tom Jorda once pointed out how there are no individual car companies and how impossible it is to break into the automotive industry. Think of a car company — odds are it is owned by or owns at least one other company. While he’s the biggest cynic I may have ever met, he knows car companies better than I don’t know women, so I’ll take his word on this. I also looked it up for good measure.

However, Tesla is the exception. Armed only with a billionaire founder and nothing else — which, frankly, isn’t a lot — the company not only makes cars, but also makes some of the best cars on the market. And they’re all electric.

For years, people have resisted electric cars because of performance issues. Sure, a Prius may be good for the earth, but only in the same way that bran muffins are good for you — that is to say, in the boring way. Frankly, there’s a reason none of the Trasformers were hybrids.

However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that that problem, if not already solved, easily could be with the resources larger car manufacturers have at their disposal. Unfortunately, society seems to be far behind this change in technology, and is only starting to catch up. Even with great electric cars like the Tesla lineup, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, their market share is dismal. Of all cars sold in 2013, less than 0.5 percent are plug-in vehicles, even with a $7,500 tax deduction helping sales. Almost as many Ferraris were sold in the first nine months of 2012 as battery-powered cars.

It’s high time those figures changed. One of the biggest obstacles to making electric cars successful and accessible is that there is no national framework of charging stations in place. There are so many gas stations that you can’t pass two highway exits without seeing one, but North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming have seven electric stations between them. Each one of those states has fewer stations than I have facial hairs.

It’s no wonder electric cars have struggled. Companies are reluctant to make things they can’t sell, and customers are reluctant to buy things they can’t use. Unfortunately, because these cars don’t get produced, nobody’s jumping to open new charging stations, and the two problems continue fueling one another. As a result, it’s imperative that America takes action and embraces this new technology — one that is not only much better for the environment, but also relies on a cheaper fuel source and has the potential to grow tremendously, creating millions of jobs.

Electric cars have the potential to be the most beneficial product modification since the smartphone, but only if consumers demand it. If you know someone looking for a car, suggest they consider an electric one — which are actually remarkably useful in some parts of the country. Petition your senators and representatives to pass measures allowing for government investment in electric stations and the production of electric cars. Do it not just for yourself, for your country or for the world, but do it for the nerds. Because if we fail, Thomas Edison wins.

Yoni Muller is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at jonathanmuller2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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