Don’t be a fuel bigot, EVangelist

I get a lot of feedback from readers who’ve read what I have to say about the automotive industry and various parts of it. Often, it’s good feedback. I like getting Facebook comments like Tim’s “Only you could compare that to a tractor and get away with it” and Bob’s reply on Google+ saying “If I were a car guy, I would probably care about your stupid article, but instead …. oh wait.”

I rarely get negative feedback from readers, in fact. I wish I could say the same for editors. When I do get negative responses, though, it’s almost always for one of two reasons: either I didn’t bow to the great god of the electric car or I made a typo somewhere. The latter is understandable, though, and will happen from time to time since the vast majority of what I write for online audiences is self-edited. The former, however, usually comes from what I call “EVangelism”.


Of course, EV lovers aren’t the only ones to get on the “mine or else” bandwagon in automotive. There are a few diesel-ites, nitrous heads, and so forth. But none are as persistent or zealous as are the electric-only crowd. Still, the others should be included here, because the phenomenon is what I like to refer to as “Fuel bigotry.”

Many of these, especially EVangelists, get to the point where even mentioning another alternative, like hydrogen (which is just another electric car with a different battery) or natural gas, will get you lambasted with 1001 reasons they are inferior to the almighty battery electric.

If you listen to our podcasts regularly, you know that Nicolas Zart is an EVangelist, but he’s an open-minded one and the two of us happen to agree on fuels in general. In other words, Nicolas is an EV lover, but not a fuel bigot. He’s a type sympa, without much prejudice.

Meanwhile, on other forums, I occasionally write the dissenting opinion on electrics and EVs in general. Despite the fact that they are still basically measured inside the margin of error of the total automotive sales figures both nationally and globally and despite the fact that they have inherent problems that are still being worked out (to wit Nissan’s LEAF battery woes and the Tesla Model S‘ penchant for running over stuff and bursting into flames), they are apparently the end-all, be-all of automotive to these people.

Most of the time, these EV-centered fuel bigots seem to be under the impression that the automotive industry moves as fast as the smart phone gadget industry does, with its sub-year product cycles and fast innovation and adoption rates. Usually they do this by ignoring the huge differences between something that costs the consumer (on average) one year’s salary versus something that costs (on average) a month’s worth of disposable income. Never mind refresh and redesign cycles for something that is beholden to (literally) hundreds of thousands of government regulations (in the U.S. alone) and has upwards of 100,000 parts involved in its manufacture and that, if it fails, can literally kill one or more people quite easily instead of just bumming them out for a few days until a replacement is acquired.

Recently, I was confronted by one of these fuel bigots regarding a story I did on TorqueNews about the failure of the LEAF to make its intended sales goals by 2016 and the changes California is considering making to their plug-in-centric zero-emissions credits (ZEV) rules. The person confronting me (you can read it there) is a representative from, let’s just say, one of those EV makers that is 90% hype and 6% truth and 4% sales – in other words, a lot of hot air for only a handful of vehicles actually on the road – with the usual rhetoric regarding how great it is to only drive electric. Interestingly, he doesn’t even drive his own product, but an EV made by another company that has also failed to meet anything near its sales expectations or hype.  One that, in my opinion and purely as a side note, is one of the ugliest cars ever designed in recent times.

Anyway, his assertions about “zero greenhouse emissions” and (supposed) “money saved” on gasoline, etc. are typical of the fuel bigot crowd’s arguments about their chosen fuel of choice. Claims about power output, ease of use, length of range per tank/charge, etc. are common things cited by these bigots in the name of their favorite option.

My questions to that aforementioned EVangelist apply to any fuel bigot:

  1. No such thing as “zero GHG.” Emissions are to be had somewhere unless you can guarantee that 100% of the time you’re fueling from non-GHG electric generation, which is very unlikely. If you are, and it’s owned by you, you have to factor in the cost of that generation and infrastructure as well. This applies to any fuel and its fueling source (pump, compressor, etc) for the vehicle.
  2. Electricity (or gas, or H2 or whatever) is NOT the only option for future automotive and even traditionally petro-based fuels don’t have to come from petroleum. There are many ways to harvest methane, many ways to create ethanol/methanol, lots of sources for diesel-like oils, plenty of ways to get hydrogen, and lots of other fuel options besides all of those.
  3. How logical would it be for us to drop one “all eggs in one basket” paradigm (petroleum) for another (electricity, gas, hydrogen, etc)?  Isn’t diversity a better option?

Obviously diversity is the better option. Otherwise, you’re racist. 🙂

Aaron Turpen
An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at