This introduces a new series one Sunday a month: The Man Cave. Our two correspondents will take turns exploring lifestyle and tech topics from a man’s point of view.
The car ownership lifespan for most guys? “Beater” car, hot rod, family vehicle.
I should know. “Car Guy”-ship is in my blood. My old man courted my mother in a candy-apple red ’67 Chevelle SuperSport. After they married, he owned a dragster he raced on weekends, storing it in our tiny garage — until my mother made him get rid of it (she needed space for a washer/dryer).
He replaced it with our family car; on weekends he’d be under the hood, tinkering. He’s been gone for years, yet I wonder what he’d think of technology’s expansion into electronic vehicles (EVs) and so-called “driverless cars.”
Car Tech: The Evolution
EVs and “driverless cars” (AKA “autonomous vehicles” or “AVs”) are no longer just for environmentalists or Silicon Valley tech bros — they’re mainstream: global sales of EVs account for nearly 20% of total car sales worldwide. While AVs are primarily in the testing phase in the US, the market is expected to increase from nearly $14 billion to $37 billion five years from now.
Car Tech: The Upsides
For Car Guys, there’s plenty to like about EVs and AVs. They’re cheaper (fewer moving parts), quieter, and better for the planet. Fully electric EVs produce zero emissions, while AV systems result in fewer traffic jams and unnecessary braking and acceleration — saving fuel and wear and tear. Some EVs/AVs qualify for federal and state tax incentives at purchase. And yeah, those dashboards resembling airplane cockpits are pretty sexy.
Car Tech and Car Guys
EVs and AVs offer independence for disabled and older drivers not yet ready to give up the keys. Fewer maintenance worries? Sign us up (some of us are getting too old to pop the hood or slide underneath the chassis for a look-see). And some car guys appreciate the additional bells and whistles (Heated seats? Backup cameras? Parallel parking assistance? Yes, please!).
Before Jon Smyth, a 79-year-old in Mt. Pleasant, SC bought a hybrid EV, he owned a classic mint-condition Porsche; he switched a few years ago. “I love it,” he says. “I’m retired. It saves money on gas. I drive 10K miles a year. All I do is plug it in and let it charge.” Would he buy an AV? “Yes,” he says. “I’m turning 80 next year, and self-driving cars will benefit us older drivers.”
On The Other Hand…
Car technology ain’t cheap — they’re pricier than conventional cars. Battery life is limited, and the need for charging stations along the way is daunting, although the Department of Energy’s website has a link (visit here) to all the charging stations in the US.
But all those bells and whistles come with an additional cost — a psychic one.
Dave Bobeck of Alexandria, VA, buys and restores classic Land Rovers as a hobby. He doesn’t own an EV but liked his test drive of Land Rover’s EV model. But AVs? “No,” he says firmly, because they remove control from the driver. (Not to mention privacy and hacking issues.)
It’s a matter of giving up independence, control, and freedom – the lure of the open road. Think of all the road trip movies — comedies, dramas, buddy flicks, coming of age — that all take place in a car, on the road. Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise, The Blues Brothers, The Green Book and hundreds more (A starter list is here).
Most guys of a certain age have fond memories of road trips taken decades ago, heading for parts unknown with a buddy and a Rand-McNally. I was stationed in Northern Maine in the military. Weekend trips with friends to Canadian provinces armed with only a map and a questionable sense of direction made for unforgettable memories.
Having routes augmented — or influenced — by technology (proximity to charging stations, GPS) would have been less fun…and just maybe, miss the point of it all.
So, what’s the verdict? I’m still on the fence.
My dad would have missed weekends tinkering in the garage, but Dave Bobeck notes that his community of tinkerers is hacking and refurbishing discarded EV/AV batteries, breathing new life into them while helping the environment. “For every car you keep on the road,” Bobeck says, referring to EVs/AVs, “the materials that would have gone into a new car stay in the ground.”
I think even my “car guy” dad would have approved of that.
What’s your verdict on the newest car technologies? Was there a road trip in your past – and would you do it again with an EV or an AV? Let us know in the comments!
Shawn Westfall: A US Air Force veteran and a nationally recognized performer and teacher of improvisational comedy, Shawn Westfall has worked as a journalist, as the fiction editor of the Hawaii Reviewand as an award-winning advertising copywriter. He won the Bazzanella Award for short fiction; his work has appeared in Roll Call, Honolulu Weeklyand The San Antonio Express-Newsamong other places.
Top photo: Ivan Kurmyshov – stock.adobe.com