Imagine if there were just one kind of car you could buy and you were told by the government you had to buy. No choice, no options.
One size fits all, just because. It’s a ridiculous idea, of course.
The reason there are different types of cars — and trucks and SUVs and everything in between — is because people have different needs.
Some people need a full-size, 4WD SUV capable of carrying six adults, handling heavy snow in the winter and pulling a heavy trailer come summer; for others, a subcompact sedan that gets 40 MPG all year long makes more sense.
One size, obviously, does not fit all.
The car industry, operating in a free market, caters to these needs.
The same principle applies — or ought to — when it comes to what makes our cars go.
There are four major choices currently available: Gasoline, gas-electric hybrid, full electric and diesel. Each way of getting a car going has its pros and cons — just as driving one type of vehicle versus a different type of vehicle entails pros and cons.
Electrics, for instance, can be plugged in anywhere there’s an outlet. No more having to deal with gas stations. Or gas costs. And they don’t produce any tailpipe exhaust emissions — because they haven’t got a tailpipe. They are classified as Zero Emissions Vehicles for this reason.
The latter is the main reason for the legislative/regulatory push for electric cars — including subsidies at both the manufacturing and retail level — as well as the justification for laws being passed in Europe and being contemplated here that would ban other-than-electric cars outright after a certain date — 2045, in California, if a bill currently under consideration there becomes law.
On the other hand, electrics are still very expensive to buy relative to an otherwise similar non-electric gas-burning or hybrid gas-electric car — even with the subsidies — which negates the EV’s at-the-pump savings. And if only affluent people can afford to buy them, their emissions — or lack thereof — are irrelevant.
And while it’s true that electrics don’t emit any emissions at the tailpipe, emissions are emitted at the smokestacks at the utility plants which produce the electricity that makes EVs go.
It’s very debatable whether, in the aggregate, electric cars actually do emit fewer emissions than conventional cars, including emissions of carbon dioxide.
Modern diesel engines, on the other hand, are capable of better-than-hybrid fuel economy without the higher cost of a hybrid drivetrain and have highway ranges of 600 miles or more on a full tank — a range no other form of propulsion can match.
They are also nearly emissions-free at the tailpipe, and, of course, emit nothing at the smokestack.
The same goes for modern gas-burning engines. Many gas and diesel engines currently in production qualify as Partial Zero Emissions and even those that don’t quite make that cut are extremely close to it.
Many people outside the car industry do not realize that the difference in exhaust emissions between ZEV and PZEV and Super Ultra Low Emissions, the next rung on the regulatory ladder, amounts to fractions of a percent. That there is no longer any such thing as a “dirty” internal combustion engine — whether gas or diesel.
And there’s more to come, including an ultra-efficient and ultra-low-emissions hybrid gas-diesel engine being developed by Mazda.
Strides are being made in terms of electric cars as well. Range is increasing and recharge times reducing, while costs are going down.
But all types still have their pros and their cons, which is why it’s important that people remain free to choose the form of propulsion that best meets their needs.
Just as they are still free to choose the type of vehicle that best meets their needs.
Eric Peters is one of the nation’s leading automotive journalists and a frequent commentator on radio and television. Readers may write him at EPAutos, 721 Copper Hill Lane SE, Copper Hill, VA 24079.