I drive an electric car. Not bragging, just saying. It’s not even one of those $40,000-$100,000 dollar jobs — it wasn’t tens of thousands — it was less than $10,000 (and going down). A “lightly used” (as the luxury auto salesmen say) Chevy Spark EV.

The range on the thing is 60-80 miles (less if cold weather, more if warm). My typical travels on any day cover considerably fewer miles — it would be a busy day indeed if I exceeded 10 miles, after which I park it in the garage, plug it in, and next day off we go. Not very far, as I mentioned.

If I ever need to take a long trip there are, as they say, a host of options — bus, train, I’m trying to avoid planes (I say it’s because they’re big polluters, but mainly I don’t want to go through TSA) and rental cars.

Once I was wearing the type of pants with many “utility” pockets, and I forgot that I had a cellphone in one of them, so I caused the alarm to go off at the airport boarding area multiple times. Each time I swore to the TSA person that I had no metal, etc., until I finally remembered the cellphone, pulled it out and said, “Oh I forgot this!” This got me a long stay in a glass booth, where successful passengers got an eyeful of what a suspect looks like. “Looks right sinister, I’d say,” opines your typical busybody traveler, unmindful of normal occasional human frailties like utility pants.

Later a TSA guy sat me down an asked me many questions, one of which was “why did you forget the cellphone?” to which it occurred to me (later) the only honest answer is “because of my brain.”

I’m not particularly smug about driving an electric car. I don’t take pleasure in driving by a gas station or anything. Driving the Spark is just pleasant — no gears, an embarrassing amount of torque, quiet — there’s something addicting about just swooping along, with no mechanical clatter — like a flying rug might feel, if the rug had power windows, cupholders, and so forth. Because of very few moving parts, the car also has roughly the same maintenance plan as the rug — occasional sweeping, for example.

What I didn’t expect was how my perception of ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles would change over a short time. Muffler technology has come a long way, and now they can muffle the loudest exhaust into a whisper, but a whisper doesn’t signify great power, so many ICE vehicles boom along the road quite dramatically indeed, and even little four-cylinder boxes trumpet their potency. For whatever reason, whether it’s the sound effects or something else, now when I hear a loud exhaust I think of a fire-breathing mechanical monster, sort of like a great, ponderous locomotive. This is especially the case with pickups, which tower more spectacularly with each new model. This perception of ICE-as-beast just sort of arrived; it wasn’t the result of a conscious effort on my part to see the ICE vehicles as monstrous, is what I’m saying.

The other big surprise was to discover that some ICE drivers become positively livid when they see an electric car. They just HATE electricity! (Is it Ben Franklin they hate? Faraday? Edison? Tesla? OK — it’s Tesla.) My car carries no obvious signs of electrification — just a little “EV” on the hatch, and no exhaust pipe — nevertheless I‘ve had pickups “roll coal” at me. This is where a truck is in the lane next to you, and suddenly it speeds up, pulls into your lane, and a great cloud of black smoke is emitted. That’s when you know you’ve had coal rolled at you, so there.

This all seems good fun, and if it allows someone to let off a little steam, or whatever is in that black cloud, it’s fine with me. I’ll just continue on my path, you know, saving the Earth for future generations.


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Jack Compere lives in Corvallis. But maybe you already guessed that.