Electric cars are the future of personal transport. Cars aren’t going anywhere, but society is starting to figure out that there are better ways to power four wheels than a never-ending (controlled) explosion. But as much as electric cars can make improvements to driving, there is one thing they’re never going to be able to change.
Much like the question “what is Soylent Green” the answer is, unfortunately, people. EVs may be quieter, cheaper to run and more hi-tech than their gasoline-powered cousins, it still doesn’t change the fact that people are involved. And let’s be honest here, people suck.
Electric cars can’t change terrible driving
The obvious point to note here is that there are an awful lot of really, truly terrible drivers out there. There are too many ways a driver can be terrible — more than I can list here — and that’s a problem that is never going to be fixed.
So long as people are able to get behind the wheel of a car and start driving, there will always be bad drivers that cause problems. Swapping an engine and gasoline for electricity isn’t going to change that.
In fact, electric cars, and the prominence of autonomous driving systems inside them, have paved the way for a new kind of awful driver. The drivers that buy into the hype and believe phrases like “Autopilot” and “autonomous” mean the car is capable of safely driving itself while they do something else.
Your car is not fully autonomous just because it can steer itself, but that doesn’t stop people napping or doing something equally dangerous while their car is in motion. Despite certain claims to the contrary, Level 5 autonomy is still a way off, and your car can not adapt to road situations with the same flexibility as a competent human being.
Thankfully this is a problem that might be sorted one day, though it relies on automakers cracking the problem of the self-driving car. Actually cracking it, not just calling it a self-driving car and hoping nobody notices. Simply making cars electric isn’t going to make much of a difference, so invest in one of the best dash cams if you haven't already.
People can be selfish, ignorant or both
One of my biggest issues with driving long distances is charging, especially since my own Nissan Leaf only has a 150-mile range. It’s not the lack of DC rapid chargers that’s the issue, it’s the fact a bunch of people seem adamant on hitting 100% before they get back on the road.
This attitude drives me particularly crazy because charging speeds start slowing down when they hit 80%. By the time you hit between 90 and 95% the power you’re receiving is coming in so slowly you might as well be plugged into a wall socket.
In fact, that driver would likely spend less time stopping for an extra supplementary charge a couple hundred miles down their route. Because even getting from 60 to 80% is a heck of a lot faster than going from 80 to 100. Chances are they're paying more too, because faster charging speeds often command a higher price tag.
But the simple matter is that the time it takes one driver to get to triple digits, someone else could have got a serious chunk of their recharging done.
The way I can best describe it for people who drive combustion engine cars is this. Imagine someone parks in front of a pump at a busy gas station, but instead of filling up they go inside to browse the aisles. Now imagine they’re parked in such a way that prevents other cars from getting past them. That’s how it feels to be stuck waiting behind an electric car charging to 100%.
It’s never clear whether these people are unaware that charging to 100% is a futile endeavor, or if they just don’t care. Maybe a little bit of both. It’s a problem that can be lessened by increasing the number of rapid chargers, but those people are still going to exist.
Oh and don’t even get me started on people who leave their fully-charged EV plugged in for extended periods, and the combustion engine cars that block access to chargers. You know, the same kind of people that park across multiple spaces for no reason other than that they can.
Everyone has an opinion about electric cars
Unsolicited opinions are like belly buttons. Everyone has them, but they rarely serve any useful purpose. Much like sports or politics, electric cars just so happen to be one of those topics people can’t help but offer their opinion on. Despite the fact that nobody asks for it.
Various popular claims I’ve heard include that batteries aren’t good enough, that EVs are worse for the environment, the electrical grid can't handle the strain, or that it’s pointless if the electricity is generated from fossil fuels anyway.
Sometimes those opinions have some validity, like the fact we need better car charging infrastructure. Which is true, and while improvements are happening, I don’t think it’ll ever truly be enough. However most of the opinions people will come up with, in my experience, are just a waste of good oxygen.
It’s never clear why people are this way about electric cars, possibly because it’s new and scary so they need to justify their own mistrust. Or perhaps they just love an opportunity to try and gloat at people who, in their misguided opinion, have made a monumental mistake.
In any case it's annoying as heck, and it's not likely to stop anytime soon.
Cars might change but people will make new problems
Those are just two examples, but it’s indicative of the wider situation. The weak link in the driving world isn’t the cars, it’s the people inside them. Despite the benefits of going electric, the fact a car needs refuelling instead of recharging isn’t going to cause a massive personality shift of the person behind the wheel.
A terrible driver is going to be almost as bad in an electric car. A selfish, careless person is still going to go through the world without any consideration for the people around them, and so on. If anything the influx of electric cars is only going to make the detractors louder for a good while.
Maybe these issues will lessen over time, but I’m not convinced that they’ll ever go away completely. Electric cars may offer few emissions, and a more consistently-priced way to power your car, but they can’t change the fundamentals of how a human being is going to behave. Especially if they’re one of the sucky ones.