Like most of you, I watched the rant by Popular Science editor and Millennial Dave Mosher about why he doesn't care about cars with a mix of horror and bewilderment. But the more I watched his rant, the more I realized that he's right about quite a few things.
First, I should say that although I'm not a fan of the term, I'm a Millennial myself. And I recognize that what Mosher says here probably represents the views of a lot of people in our age group.
While Mosher and I may not share my enthusiasm for cars, we're actually more on the same page than I thought we'd be — and he says many things Jalopnik has been saying about Millennials, cars and sustainability for some time.
I'll start with where I disagree, because that's the easiest part. Mosher says that although he grew up around a repair shop and knows how to fix cars, he no longer cares about driving and would prefer cars that drive themselves. He says he'd rather be in the back seat watching Finding Nemo with the kids than up behind the wheel risking his life. "Get rid of the driver," he says. "We don't need to drive, robots are better at it."
Obviously, I'd rather be driving for several reasons — first and foremost, because I enjoy driving, and second, because I feel more at risk when I'm riding passenger and trusting someone else's (or some robot's) driving skills and judgment.
I think Mosher needs to realize that enthusiasts see a difference between, as Matt has put it, driving — having a ton of fun on some cop-free back road on a sunny day — and commuting, which is generally miserable and soul-killing.
Yes, more people use their cars for commuting rather than actual driving, and that's a shame. It's why we're proponents of public transportation for commuting. But no one should advocate for taking driving away from people who love to drive.
But then Mosher says carmakers have to get better at building their cars out of more sustainable and recyclable materials so their production does not hurt the planet. You absolutely won't find me disagreeing here. In fact, that's one of the biggest problems I have with hybrid and electric cars at the moment — the manufacture of their batteries has a tremendous carbon footprint. If an environmentalist learned how exactly some of the materials used for these cars are extracted from the earth, it would give them nightmares for weeks.
So we agree that cars need to be better for the environment in their production. They need to be more efficient, too — I certainly won't dispute that. I love big, powerful V8, V10 and V12 engines more than anything. I prefer them over tiny four-bangers, even the potent turbo ones.
But even I realize that they run on a fuel source that will not last forever and is largely located in a politically unstable part of the world we have no business being embroiled in. Cars have to become more efficient.
Which brings us to Mosher's next point: We need an electric car charging grid "that is just as safe and easy as pumping gas." Dude, I have been saying this for years. I don't think Americans will truly get onboard en masse with electric cars if they have to deal with 30 minute (or more) charging times. Until it's as fast and convenient and everywhere as gas stations are, we won't see the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
Mosher then says that the source of this grid needs to be clean and renewable. Damn right. We can't have electric cars that just run on coal, which generates 45 percent of America's electricity.
I don't think that the onus for building a renewable electric grid should be solely on the shoulders of carmakers, and I don't think it is correct when Mosher says "You got the government to build you a national highway system, it's certainly within your capabilities to have them build a clean, renewable electric grid."
That's not really a fair comparison. First of all, the national highway system wasn't built because of pressure from automakers, although that's the popular and enduring myth. Plans for an interstate system started way back in the 1910s, and they were built as much for national defense as anything else. Also, the highways were built during a time of unprecedented postwar economic growth in the 1950s. We're not exactly in the same boat at the moment.
Economics brings us to our final point. Mosher says cars need to be cheaper, and Millennials — who have record student loan debt and watched their parents' retirement funds disappear during the recession — are not flush with cash.
Once again, this is something I've been saying for a long time, and I'm so glad to hear someone come out and say it too. Millennials aren't buying cars because they're obsessed with smartphones, they aren't buying cars because cars are more expensive than ever while average household incomes have declined or stayed stagnant since the 1970s. You're preaching to the choir, brother. Car companies don't understand why young people don't want to get loaded down with debt over a car that could cost more than they make in a year.
(At the same time, I have to wonder which car Mosher wants — a cheaper one or one that drives itself, because it's unlikely to be both.)
And yes, I get that many Millennials want to live in walkable cities with good public transportation. I live in Washington D.C., so I do the same thing (insert joke about the Metro being "good public transportation" here.) But what happens when you want to leave that city for some reason? That's when you need a car.
I'll close by offering a piece of advice I have been dishing out for a long time. If you want a car and you want to be truly green, get yourself a used one that's reasonably efficient so you don't have any guilt over the carbon footprint of its production, keep it running properly and cleanly, and walk and take the bus as much as possible.
And if Dave Mosher happens to read this, I certainly won't say "Go fuck youself with a leaking battery" like your YouTube commenters did. I understand you're not enthusiastic about cars or driving the way we Jalops are.
But I'll extend a standing invitation for the chance to change your mind. I think I hoontastic run down a nice, twisty backroad in a car like the 2014 Mazda Miata Club Edition I had last week would help you see things from our perspective.
It even gets pretty good fuel economy.