Eco-Living Magazine

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Posted on the 01 August 2014 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

A few weeks back I wrote about safe routes and transportation to schools, my attempts to ride my bike to my children’s daycare, and the message that it sends to them. As a symbol of alternative modes of transportation, the bike is great. They see other people biking, realize it’s a recreational activity, but still don’t see it as a major mode of transportation. Granted they’re 4 and a half and not quite 2, and I may be projecting a bit, but when it rains or is too hot (or cold), we’re running late, or need to bring extra supplies to school, we take the car. After all, I did write about the hegemony of the automobile a few years back.

As my family gets set to move yet again, we are looking at the need of a second car. I wrote about our “Freeius” that my sister gave us, but it will not make the 2,000+ mile trip with us to sunny Southern California. We’ve talked about putting a bike hitch on our RAV4, dropping the kids off at daycare, me biking to my new job as Director of Sustainability, and my wife continuing the drive to her job, which is about 8 miles away. The other day though, as a birthday present of sorts, we test drove a Model S from Tesla. Chris wrote a more technical review of his test drive in 2012, but it was awesome. In particular, I love the regenerative braking. It far surpasses what our Prius is capable of doing. The deceleration feels as though one is stepping on the brake, without having to wear down the brake pads, all while recharging the battery for further driving range. When the sales representative told us that someone had achieved 416 miles on a single charge, I was sold.

I bring the Tesla up in the context of children since my wife and I tried to explain to our 4-year old that we test drove a car, it’s called a Tesla, and it’s electric. I made up a story using one of his favorite characters (Daniel Tiger from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood via Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) where Daniel and his family drive an electric car. The trouble is that the Tesla still looks like a traditional car on the outside. Getting him to appreciate the difference between an internal combustion engine and the all electric powertrain represents a challenge. The stick price may be a big enough deterrent, though if it lasts 10 years and gas prices average $4 per gallon (not unreasonable in California, and probably a rather conservative estimate), we would save $30-40,000 in gasoline. My future employer is installing charging stations and we would look to put a photovoltaic array on our home in order to generate as much of our own energy as possible and further reduce our costs in terms of charging the car.

However, regardless of what we do, we are still looking at a second car and not a more sustainable mode of transportation – bikes, walking, or public transit, all of which are options, but very difficult in Southern California, given the aforementioned hegemony of the automobile. Justin and I often debate about hybrids and their role in “bridging” the gap to future modes of transport, whether they’re electric, hydrogen fuel cell, or some other yet to be developed mode (hyperloop anyone?).

In the end, the message sent by purchasing an electric vehicle, one produced in state, let alone in the United States, perhaps the safest car on the road, and what may be the best car regardless of propulsion and energy consumption, represents an important educational point for my kids, the community I’ll serve as Director of Sustainability, and the wider world. I once said to myself I’d never spend more than $20,000 on a car (after buying my 1998 Honda Accord, new). 12 years later I replaced it with a $30,000 Toyota RAV4. Could I really be serious about dropping $90,000 for a car? Time will tell, but it sends a powerful message and puts my money where my mouth is in terms of sustainable transport that is not powered by me alone or controlled by the bus driver.

Image by Tesla

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