June 17, 2024

Louis I Vuitton

Savvy Car Technicians

What’s the underlying principle of electric vehicles | Ron Colone | Columnist

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Remembering the teachings of a boss I had …

Whenever an issue would arise that required a “decision” or an official company “response,” he would engage a group of us in a discussion and after allowing us time to air out our ideas, assessments and opinions, he would then ask, “What’s the underlying principle here?”

That question helped us arrive at and communicate our core values, and the extent to which we could embrace and agree upon them helped define and solidify the all-important company culture and establish an objective basis for our action — such that our decisions as a company would not be arbitrary, emotional or contradictory, from day to day, place to place, situation to situation.

The habit of asking “what is the underlying principle” has stuck with me, and I use it to help sort out my own ideas and stance on various subjects like, for instance, our energy systems.

For the past 140 years, the industrialized world has run on fossil fuels — coal, petroleum and natural gas — to heat and power our homes and businesses, and to fuel vehicles. The modern world — comprised of products and conveniences, buildings, streets, cities, power grids, vehicles, machines, companies, corporations, manufacturing systems, distribution networks and economic structures — has been built around our chosen energy system.

It has turned the wheels and driven the engine of progress. But over time, we began to notice that it also blackened our streets and our skies and our lungs. It tore up the ground, flattened our hillsides, left oil slicks on the water and dead fish along the banks of the river.

As consumption continued to grow (and grow), so too did our dependence on imported oil, which served to destabilize our economy, threaten our national security and distort our foreign policy — at a cost of trillions of dollars and millions of human lives.

The more forward, or ecologically-minded, individuals among us suggested that we try to reduce our dependence on oil (volatile markets, autocrats and dictators) by investing in alternative energy. However, each time it came up, those who stood to lose the most shouted, “No! It’s too expensive! It won’t work!”

They hired lawyers and PR firms to paint rosy pictures of their enterprises, and they aligned with politicians who pledged to keep the pipelines flowing and the mines and fissures growing.

Eventually, economic and ecological concerns converged, creating an opening for the development of cleaner, more sustainable energy.

From 2000 to 2020, renewable energy sources increased by 90% and today account for more than 20% of our electricity generation and 12% of our overall energy consumption.

The argument that alternative energy is not economically feasible no longer holds water, as two-thirds of our renewable energy projects produce electricity at a cheaper rate than the cheapest fossil fuel operation. And with more installations, the cost will only continue to go down.

Which brings me to today’s topic: electric vehicles.

While I support and applaud any movement away from the fossil fuel industry, I must ask, “What is the underlying principle?”

If I oppose fossil fuels because they are nonrenewable and wreak havoc on the environment, then for the same reason I must also contest electric vehicles which rely on mining lithium and cobalt, and involve water-intensive, environmentally damaging extraction and production processes.

If I object to oil because the reserves are located in limited geographical areas and “the market” too easily lends itself to manipulation and political shenanigans, then I must challenge electric vehicles on the same account.

I applaud the effort to move away from fossil fuels and gas-powered cars and toward cleaner, more efficient renewable technologies, but we must realize that lithium batteries are just an interim step.

When it comes to choosing a new technology to invest in and to construct new systems and structures around, we must look forward to truly less damaging, more renewable options like solar, hydrogen, wind, thermal, kinetic, nuclear and more.

We must ask ourselves, “What is the underlying principle?”

When it comes to our energy systems, for me, it is sustainability, independence, accessibility, feasibility, health-supporting, peace-promoting technologies.

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