Can I still like old cars? (Yes)

June 2, 2023

Ask Dr. Electrfiy

Saul explains it all

This week’s questions are from Adrik Mordan, a 12th grader at The White Mountain School in New Hampshire. Adrik learned about all the many different ways to produce energy, particularly green energy, in sixth grade. It piqued his interest in energy policy. He plans to study engineering in college.

Adrik:* Do you think there’s sentimental value behind someone keeping their gas-powered vehicle instead of getting an electric one?*

Saul: I love this question, mate, because there’s no one who is more sentimental about old cars than me. I grew up tinkering with cars and speaking carburetor as a second language. In fact, while I drive an electric mini-van, I own some other beautiful gas-powered cars, including a 1961 Lincoln Continental, a 1959 Volkswagen dune buggy, a 1963 Land Rover, and my favorite, an obscure little microbus called a 1957 Fiat Multipla.

The thing is, those of us who love vintage cars love the metal and the tinkering more than the gas. In 2022, I had a hoot of a time with half a dozen fellow motorheads when we retrofitted the Fiat with a 6 electric motor electric conversion using control systems from electric skateboards. We love the companionship of cars, not the combustion. Aside from electrifying old cars, or keeping them as lawn ornaments, eventually everyone will need to switch to EVs to help us meet our climate goals. An average gas-guzzling car emits 4.6 metric tons1 carbon emissions per year. EVs are not only good for the environment, but they’re quieter, cleaner, and you don’t have to change the oil or worry that someone is going to steal your catalytic converter.

Fortunately, the Inflation Reduction Act has made it easier for people to purchase a new EV when their old car dies, extending a $7500 rebate. They have also instituted a $4000 subsidy for buying used electric vehicles.

Adrik: How do you think officials are going to help those people make the switch to electric cars?

Saul: I live in a town where a coal-fired train chugs through on a tourist run once a week in the summer. It’s a delightful reminder of how the world used to be, and also a reminder of the polluting aspects of burning coal. It billows white steam and black smoke. I think a few old enthusiasts firing up their 1969 Dodge Chargers once a year for the thrill and noise of it won’t push us over the edge on climate and is a nostalgic win. __The future can’t forget the past and we need to be lighthearted in advocating for change that some people will find culturally challenging. Let’s celebrate the best pieces of that culture while helping them usher in a cleaner world. __

Adrik: You said you’ve been working on climate policy for around two years now with the Biden Administration. What changes has Australia made that the United States needs to make to reduce their carbon emissions in the transportation sector specifically?

Saul: Australia’s innovation is in rooftop solar energy where, through regulatory optimization and workforce training, they have lowered the cost to 2-3 US cents per kWh. The installed cost is less than $0.75 US cents per watt, nearly 4 times lower than the typical American installation. Australia is actually way behind on emissions standards for vehicles and electric cars. The perfect world would combine America's electric cars with Australian rooftop solar which would reduce the cost of driving a mile in a typical SUV from 20-25 cents per mile on $4/Gallon gas, to only 1-2 cents per mile !!

Adrik: Who are the people who need to make those changes happen?When the changes are made, how are they going to be enforced?

Saul: It is everyone. We need the people to demand it and show politicians it is what they want. We need politicians to enact less burdensome legislation. We need bureaucrats to streamline processes and we need industry to build the machines and tradespeople to install them.

Adrik:* How can the public be educated on the benefits of electrifying the transportation sector? Who needs to do the educating?*

Saul: Organizations like Rewiring America. Websites like Elektrek. Individuals, word of mouth. We need to do everything. It’s urgent.

Got an electric query? Better call Saul.

Got more questions for Dr. Electrify? We want ‘em! Send in your electric questions and you might see them in a newsletter soon.

Mr. Heat Pump laces up for a rebates update.

The Inflation Reduction Act tax credits for a lot of your home upgrades took effect in January, so if you pay enough in income taxes to get the credit, you're off to the races! But the rebates that will lower the cost upfront of some sweet electrification upgrades are still making their way around the track.

Race to Rebates

Homework from Dr. Electrify

⚡ Tell the youths! Sunrise Movement is hosting a FREE Summer Camp for high schoolers (grades 9 - 12) to learn about a Green New Deal for Schools (hint: electrify!)

⚡ Natural gas is mostly methane. Methane is mostly bad. Read our LinkedIn newsletter and change your language!

⚡ Recruit a local leader! Contact your city/county elected official and sustainability staff person and ask them to join the Local Government Leaders for Electrification Coalition.