Should we be shocked by the future of the car?

To the average red-blooded car enthusiast, the idea of electric vehicles (or EVs) can be threatening. We’ve grown up loving the sounds and power that can only come from a chuck of metal with tiny controlled explosions of decaying dinosaurs. The idea of this being replaced with the sound and power of a dishwasher is horrifying. However, I do believe that some good can come from this.    

Let me first say that I do not eat loads of granola while wearing Birkenstock sandals and hemp shorts; but I’ve always been entertained by anything with wheels, no matter how it is powered. It started with my first BMX bike to my current overly priced mountain bike. Then there was my Big Wheel and eventually my first EV, a Power Wheels Big Foot. Any kid who has ever owned a Power Wheels will have nothing but fond memories of it. It was entertaining until the very end, when I decided to chain it to my first gas-powered vehicle, a Yamaha 80 four-wheeler, and drag it to its death. Needless to say, the rest of my life has been filled with gas-powered four wheelers, dirt bikes, motorcycles, jet skis, boats and a near endless list of cars and trucks powered by four, six or eight tiny explosions… of decaying dinosaurs.    

It wasn’t until much later that I experienced the fun to be had with the most common EV in the world, the golf cart. To some, this sounds as thrilling as biting into a loaf of damp bread. But when you approach one of these machines with the immaturity of a 5th grader (i.e. steal one), you can create as much joyous carnage as with any other gas-powered vehicle. When my father started living like a retiree, he traded the Harley lifestyle for that of an E-Z GO golf cart gang. And like the others in his pack, he commenced to customizing it with bright red paint and the graphics of Dale Jr.’s car. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I did approve of the lift kit and knobby tires. With that, the little cart was quite capable. I remember taking it into the woods to recover a four-wheeler with a broken chain. The E-Z-GO towed it back nearly half of a mile, uphill, with no complaints. After that, when those familiar feelings of hooliganism returned, that same golf cart catapulted over hills and performed endless drifts across gravel, dirt and mud. The only way of ending such fun was to topple over, slamming you through the ground before crushing your body. Not to say that will happen, but the battery packs needed to power these things are very heavy and golf carts are inherently unstable…so there is a chance.    

However, remove the notion of death from your mind and you will see that a large numbers of Americans have embraced this common little EV. Go to the nearest beach campground and you will see endless lines of juvenile delinquents driving all forms of customized golf carts with loud stereos, big chrome rims, lift kits and flame jobs. Companies offer catalogs full of this crap including hop-up kits for the electric motors. So why are we filled with dread upon seeing the latest in road-legal electric vehicles?    

I had the chance to poke and prod a line of EVs at a press conferencing that announced the opening of a manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, SC. CT&T is the name of the company. I’ll be the first to admit that they lack the sexuality of, oh let’s say, an Aston Martin. While under the hood of that beauty, you will find a beautiful multivalve V8 that growls like God’s own guard dog and trumpets through its dual exhaust like a Dizzy Gillespie solo. As for the EV, if you’ve heard a washing machine, that’s about it. Try to ignore this… and the fact that they come from Korea (once again, nothing against the people…just their horribly bland cars)… and that they are basically soulless appliances, and you’ll find a little car with a lot of potential. Comparing them to golf carts would be unfair as they, in some respects, or pretty similar to the average budget-minded economy car. The car’s structure consists of a high-strength aluminum frame that extends through the A and B pillars and into roof. Independent strut suspension holds up each corner while hydraulic disc brakes stops each wheels. A lot of today’s so-called road cars don’t even have independent suspension and all-wheel discs.    

eZone City EV

 

The interior is like an 80’s Korean car, but not too utilitarian. A tasteful gauge cluster is mounted in a center pod above a CD player and heater and air-conditioning controls. I’m not sure how an air-conditioning unit would work on one of these things. An electric motor would have to spin the compressor and that would mean less of that precious go-go juice to make you mobile. You also get lights, turn signals, windshield wipers, power windows and heated seats. This seems a little more like a car than a golf cart. The only thing that ruins this is the little toggle switches for the forward and reverse controls and the high and low range controls. I know that it is all electrical, but  shift levers for these controls would be nice. Most automatic transmissions in new cars shift electronically, but they still have normal, physical shifters. Scratch that, why not have manual transmissions? This would not only increase the engine’s efficiency, but it would improve acceleration (if you can call it that) and top speed (if you can call… oh, never mind).    

ePick-up Interior

 

ePick-up Gauge Cluster

 

The exterior has little to fall in love with. With the two-door City coupe, it looks as though a Smart car has mated with a Korean cartoon fish used to market microwavable seafood…yum. Luckily, they also have an ePick-up and an eVan version of the car available. Despite sharing the front-end of the coupe, the pick-up actually looks pretty good. Instead of hacking off the back of a coupe and throwing on an aluminum flat-bed, the pick-up has a nicely integrated bed. Combined with the alloy-looking (?) wheels, it looks rather decent… sort of El Camino-ish. What’s more American than that? The eVan also shares the city car’s front-end but has a very spacious box behind the cab (think mini box truck).    

ePick-up

 

eVan

 

 Another version of this EV shown was a “police package” EV equipped with police lights, a siren and an “authoritive muscular” front end (that’s what the pamphlet says). Police dash cam video will never be the same again. Instead of the familiar Crown Vic V8 growl, viewers will have to make do with a blender’s “wwwwrrrrrrrr”.    

Police EV... hee hee...

 

Hopefully I haven’t lost you, though  honestly, I would have gone back to the muscle car section of eBay by now. But imagine this, the ePick-up with raised suspension and off-road tires…perfect for the farm or getting to that perfect spot during hunting season. Not only is it quiet, but it’ll be nice and warm thanks to the heater and heated seats. If the weather turns nasty, you’ll have a roof over your head and wipers to help find your way home. And, if getting to your hunting plot requires driving a few miles down the road, the ePick-up is street legal. There is a sizable market for machinery such as this. The side-by-side ATVs are selling like hotcakes and more and more of the Japanese-market mini-trucks are turning up at hunting shops and on eBay. None of these can be registered for street use on American roads.    

As for the rest of CT&T’s line, I highly approve. I haven’t been able to test drive one yet. When I do, I’ll write about. For right now, you probably won’t catch me in their small city car; but with a little more power and a little better styling, I could see myself in the EV pick-up. So if any of these EVs work for you, by all means, buy’em! Heck, buy two.    

No, I haven’t become one of these greenish hipsters that run naked through the forest trying to save endangered snails; I’m just a realist. And while we’re talking reality, we should acknowledge the fact that fossil fuels will not be here forever…BP has helped with that. Then there’s Muffy and Buffy who feel the need to impress their neighbors and friends by buying the largest SUV made with the largest engine available so that they may comfortably haul around all one of the children (I remember having to ride in the back of a late 70’s Chevy Monza coupe with my brother before moving up to the vast luxury only a Cavalier station wagon could provide). Then there’s Billy Ray and his 1-ton, crew cab, 4X4 monster with 12 inches of lift and 52 inch tires and nothing to tow or haul but his own ego. And no, I’m not turning communist; I think everybody has a right to buy whatever they dang well want. When it comes to towing tractors, cars and ocean liners, nothing does it better than a good ‘ole ¾ or 1-ton truck. But if you have nothing to tow or haul, is it really necessary to burn that much fuel just so you can think that others will think that you are a “man”? It would be cheaper to buy a mid-sized truck and counseling.    

Those who know me may, understandingly, think that I’ve totally lost my mind; but you’re not going to see me licking the windows of our downtown department stores because all of this just makes sense to me. If you drive less than 70 or 80 miles a day, why not save money and fuel by driving an EV? When you get home, you can plug it into your 240 volt outlet and it’ll be ready for the next morning. Advances in battery and motor technology means that there is more power and longer distances to be squeezed out. Just look at the Tesla Roadster. You can, in theory, get over 200 miles (more like 100 miles) from a car that’ll reach 60 in less than 5 seconds… that’s within the acceleration realm of V8 Camaros and Mustangs! Also, as these EVs become more Americanized, we’ll see better styling. Once again, I’ll take the ePick-up with a mild lift, knobby tires and leafy camouflage.    

However, I’m still a fuel-fed gear head. I have to hear the burble of a nicely tuned engine. Nothing can replace the power and the sound of those tiny controlled explosion in that big chunk of metal. Nor could anything replace the soul. Oddly enough, this is where EVs can help. When I want to blast down trails in my old Jeep or carve up road courses in my little Miata (I’d rather say 370Z or Corvette ZR1, but you have to start somewhere), I’ll take comfort in knowing that, for right now, I can.    

One day, Lord willing, scientist will find a renewable “miracle” liquid to replace the fuel we currently burn. Until then, don’t get pissed when you find yourself behind a slow-moving EV. Kindly wave as you floor that pedal, feel the power and hear the growl that can only come from a gas-burning engine. Because of that dork in the EV, you’ll have a few more years of doing so.

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