What's Wrong With This Picture: The Rugged EV Lifestyle Edition

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Of all the barriers standing in the way of commercial success for electric cars, the “image issue” is perhaps one of the least understood. Most EV firms have embraced the distinctively Western “green consumption” trend, in which a kind of environmental asceticism drives consumer values of downsizing and ultimately self-denial. But making a conscious choice to not use gasoline and accepting whatever the market happens to offer is not a phenomenon that automakers can expect to sustain itself. If they ever want to achieve mass acceptance, EVs need an image context that goes beyond graywater recycling, “freeganism” and other highly conscious but ultimately self-denying lifestyle choices.

Racing is one obvious way to broaden EV appeal, as it highlights the positive performance aspects of EV drivetrains, but sadly no major OEM will commit to an EV racing series. Besides, racing hardly builds on the existing (if limited) green appeal of EVs. Enter the EV as disaster response vehicle. The NYT has a fantastic story about the use of EVs in rescue efforts after the Japanese quake/tsunami, when gas was largely unavailable. The story proves that EVs, far from being mere lifestyle accessories, can be hugely useful in the right circumstances. And because so many green lifestyle choices stem from a perspective of apocalyptic expectation, this story both broadens and builds on the EV’s existing appeal. Most importantly of all, pictures like the one above will do more to banish the limp-wristed, “anti-luxury” image that curses EVs than just about anything else. Just as SUV buyers would swell with pride seeing an ad image of their Explorer in off-road conditions they would never visit themselves, the image of EVs running first-responder missions in a quake-torn Japan could be of lasting significance.

Join the conversation
5 of 21 comments
  • Syke Syke on May 09, 2011

    Maybe you guys need to take a moment to read the article before commenting. Obviously, the i-MiEV's weren't busting through the wreckage to pull bodies out of collapsed buildings. On the other hand, they were performing a necessary service - within their technological limitations. And, seemingly, they were doing a right good job of it. Damn, maybe these things are useful after all. Of course, getting some hard core detractors to admit to that . . . . . . . .

    • See 2 previous
    • SPPPP SPPPP on May 09, 2011

      @Philosophil This just in ... the New York Times ran a "fantastic story" about how awesome margarine is, because Judy Walker ran out of butter and was still able to make a pie! My point is that certain communities HAPPENED to have electricity but not gas. I am sure that at other points in those weeks, communities HAPPENED to have gas but not electricity. The NYT article (and this one, to some extent) seem to imply that there is some deep, existential conclusion about EVs to be drawn from this phenomenon. I think the NYT article is really just a fluff piece about a curious set of events. So I enjoyed lampooning it. I think that others here felt the same way.

  • AaronH AaronH on May 09, 2011

    Never mind that. The dude will have to wait 6 hours for the batteries to charge. Leave the boat on top of the building and turn the building into a casino strip club. Call it "Das Boat Casino and Strip Club"

  • Kwik_Shift It was an annoying feature on my 2018 Nissan Sentra SV. Bugs, leaves and snow would disable it. Should have been a better design .
  • Master Baiter A regulator's job is never done, so yeah, bring on the next level of regulations.
  • DedBull The automatic braking system in my wife's 2019 Tiguan is easily defeated by the slightest amount of solid precipitation, which is not uncommon here in western Pennsylvania. Fortunately we have regular speed-holding cruise control, because the active cruise control uses the same sensor and becomes inactive in the same conditions. It was infuriating in our loaner. I've had a few false-positives over the years, plus a couple where it didn't like my rate of deceleration. Interestingly it did not intervene at all when I had a deer strike a couple years ago. I don't mind the application of the tech, but I think they are setting a pretty high bar going forward. I'm also cautious of over-reliance on tech in vehicles.
  • FreedMike The AEB system on my car has actually engaged only once in the two years I've owned it, mainly because I actually pay attention. But not everyone does...thus, this proposal. If everyone was as diligent as I am, I'd say there's no need, but we all know how that movie ends.if it keeps some moron in a Tahoe who's busy f**king around on TikTok from laying waste to my car from behind, I'm all for it.
  • Lou_BC I've seen photo's of plates that spell "azzhole" when viewed in the rear view mirror. There was a fellow in Canada who's last name was "Grabher". They wouldn't let him have that plate.