Driving an electric car may be fun but it does not equal moral superiority

Sep 23, 2016, 12:25 PM

FILE - In this Monday, April 25, 2016, file photo, staff members talk with visitors as they sit ins...

FILE - In this Monday, April 25, 2016, file photo, staff members talk with visitors as they sit inside a Tesla Model S electric car on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

I recently saw that a group of Norwegian Tesla owners are suing the electric car company claiming that the  “Insane Mode” (Tesla’s description of the car’s acceleration) in the P85D version of the Model S sedan isn’t quite so insane.

The car, they claim, is not capable of going the advertised 0 to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds. Their lawyer said that the car has less than 500 horsepower as opposed to the promised 700 hp.

I don’t know if the promise of 700 horses is going unfulfilled by Tesla but there is something else that’s going unfulfilled for a lot of electric car owners: the promise of moral superiority. A certain level of environmental self-righteousness that they thought they’d feel when they sat down behind the wheel of a zero-emissions vehicle.

Actually, they might have been experiencing those wonderful, warm feelings right up until this moment, when I burst their bubble and exposed the myth of zero-emissions and crushed the idea that the electric car is any better for the environment than a car that gets good gas mileage using an internal combustion engine.

The truth is, the electric car may be worse in the overall scheme of environmental damage.

Nay, the promise of a cleaner planet through the use of electric cars is not deserved (at least using today’s technology) for a couple reasons:

1) The process to create electric car lithium-ion batteries — and the batteries themselves — is nasty. Better than traditional batteries, mind you, but still nasty.

According to a study conducted for the Environmental Protection Agency by Abt Associates, the environmental impacts of advanced batteries include “resource depletion, global warming, and ecological toxicity — primarily resulting from the production, processing, and use of cobalt and nickel metal compounds, which can cause adverse respiratory, pulmonary, and neurological effects in those exposed.”

A study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology concluded that the global warming potential of electric vehicles is “about twice that of conventional vehicles.”

2) The idea that you’re not polluting the environment by driving an all-electric car (this is the one that drives me to my “Insane Mode”).

Where does one think the electricity comes from in order to power their electric cars?

There aren’t magic elves inside those free charging stations around town and unicorn poop didn’t create the electricity that you’re plugging into at your house.

As a matter fact, there’s a good chance it was created by — gasp — coal! Coal, just like what’s used at the giant Navajo Generating Station that’s located next to my hometown of Page, Arizona.

So, by all means, enjoy the “Ludicrous Mode” or the “Insane Mode” that Tesla offers but please don’t drive around with the insane, ludicrous, holier-than-thou attitude that you’re morally superior in your all-electric car. You’re still polluting the environment.

You’re just doing it in a different way than I am in my Camry.

Jim Sharpe

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Driving an electric car may be fun but it does not equal moral superiority