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Electric Vehicles:

The Transformation From a Hobby to a Path for Environmental Change

Greg Jalbert

After being involved peripherally in the local electric vehicle scene for a year and a half, I am still trying to find what will make this technology acceptable to the general public. There needs to be a more general awareness nurtured in the minds of individuals.

I have seen different motives for being involved in the electric vehicle scene, but not a lot of priority placed on growth of public awareness. It seems so easy for people to get involved in racing and the competitive aspect of small electric vehicles, but this seems to have little impact on changing our commuting patterns.

To prevent lung cancer from cigarettes, we don't smoke, and we limit the public areas where others may smoke. To prevent lung disease from air pollution, we must stop driving gas-powered cars, and limit where they may be used. Racing electric vehicles may raise public awareness of the few people that see the race, but it's not until we see people riding electric vehicles to work, grocery stores, movies, schools, banks, post offices, that we will see the true potential of this kind of transportation to change our lives and the lives of generations after us that must breath the same air. We need to see personal vehicles in context of every day society.

We need to focus on developing economical vehicles for one passenger that can be used for the one to five miles trips around town that dominate our traveling habits. There are some new programs being developed for high schools to encourage innovative and practical design of personal vehicles. Working with budding young engineers in this exciting new field may yield some significant results in the future, directly effecting air quality and a greater understanding of our relationship to the environment. By making the total relationship of the vehicle to the environment a priority, we can create designs that use minimal resources, and are even easy to recycle and reuse as the normal lifespan is completed.

Many different global changes can be found to be interconnected. The world does not run on one model of economic theory or chemistry. It is a complex system, which can easily go out of balance as its components are stressed by problems such as global warming, agricultural breakdowns, smog, traffic congestion, famine, racism, political oppression, general economic recession, etc.

Jim McGreen, a designer of electric bicycles in Alameda, California, says:

"Over dependence on gasoline -powered vehicles has led to the degradation and destruction of our urban and suburban environments. Imagine a world where the auto was a rare sight instead of the ubiquitous bully of transportation it is now. A quiet non-polluting future is more than possible - it is attainable with the application of existing technology." The auto garages of today must be modified to meet the needs of electric vehicles. Charging stations for vehicles at the home, office and grocery store must be designed to be easy and inexpensive. It could be as easy as putting money in a parking meter. We don't want to learn complicated details of electrical circuits to deal with the everyday routine of basic transportation. The challenge for designers will be to make the daily routine and maintenance of electric cars invisible. There is great potential for a simpler life with less hassle, since the basic components of an electric car are much simpler than a gas-powered car.

It will take conscious and active involvement in the design of our future. There may be commercial success in some of the areas of development, but keep in mind that much of the technological development up to now has been without heed to its effects on the environmental economy. This interaction with the earth and is resources is reaching the brink of collapse and only widespread education and active change will keeps us from falling over that precipice.

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