The electric thrill of owning a car
It’s so seductive, so liberating, so thrilling, why would you not yield to this lust?
This was the message played over and over again on the video commercials for luxury vehicles on my flight to China in October. Get into one of these swanky automobiles and drive.
Indeed, brand new luxury vehicles were commonplace on the streets in China, along with a variety of other vehicles of all shapes and sizes including a zillion scooters and other fuel efficient vehicles like the three-wheel beast in the photo.
I heard a news report there that the way car sales were going, within a few years cars would exceed the capacity of the streets in Beijing. In Kunming where I was, the traffic was likewise a frenetic frenzy. Kunming is hastily constructing a SkyTrain equivalent to increase commuter capacity.
Before getting too alarmed about what’s happening in China, it is good to remember where the lust for automobiles began.
Here in North America where Henry Ford first promoted the luxury and freedom of owning a motor car, we are still putting too many gas guzzlers on the road.
The two most important choices in terms of your personal environmental footprint are how you transport yourself and where you live, according to Steven Bouma-Prediger, professor at Hope College, Michigan.
In his book For the Beauty of the Earth, Bouma-Prediger develops the idea of Earth-keeping as a system of virtues. And more and more, we do have virtuous transportation choices.
Electric cars are finally becoming a real choice. In October, a Nissan Leaf was showcased for a Global Environmental Issues class at Trinity Western University.
“I expected that the car would be sluggish since it is electric, but I was totally wrong. It performs as well or even better than a car in the same size class,” said Dennis Kim, a second-year Intercultural Religious Studies major.
As Jeff Nagel reported on Nov. 8 in the Langley Times, the province of British Columbia has now unveiled a rebate program for purchasers of electric cars, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. Of course, such vehicles retail for much higher prices than gas-only alternatives and the infrastructure to support electric car charging is quite skeletal at the moment.
Still, if the mass production economics promoted by Henry Ford come into play, who knows? Certainly it will be interesting to see if the emerging powerhouse Chinese economy takes the wheel on this one.
If that happens, I’m sure we’ll all feel the acceleration.
David Clements is a professor of biology and environmental studies at Trinity Western University.