Electric Vehicles: Naughty or Nice?

By Bill Moore

Posted: 26 May 2010

I am starting to wonder if it isn't time we stopped touting the environmental virtues of electric vehicles, and started emphasizing their "naughty" side. After all, since when did anyone ever get excited about being virtuous? Surely, being "green" doesn't mean you have to be a saint.

In writing about the consumer adoption of curve in The Wringer Washer Vs. The Electric Car I theorized that part of the reason it took half century for the clothes washer to reach 80% of U.S. households was because they were appliances of convenience for women, not men; and as long as women stayed home, there wasn't the need to innovate: wringer washers evolved little from their introduction in the late 1920s until well into the 1960s.

If, however, you look at the adoption curves for VCRs, computers and the Internet, they rocket to 60% of households in less than a decade. Part of the reason is the rapidly falling price of technology, of course, as well as expanding usefulness. It's also been estimated that a significant driver for all three is sex, from sexy celebrity wallpaper for your computer screen to hardcore porn, it's all there for the download. As much as we might not like to admit it, "sleaze" helped propel all three.

Now, I am not advocating we start showing naked women -- or men - draped over the hoods of Volts and Karmas, the later not to be confused with the kama sutra, of course. Instead, I am suggesting -- somewhat tongue-in-check, mind you -- that we stop portraying EVs as chaste, pristine, protectors of the environment; as the good angel on our right shoulder, and start to think more about their "naughty" nature; that little devil on our left shoulder who keeps whispering, 'go ahead, enjoy yourself.'

Car designers -- and advertising agencies -- already try to do that through sensual styling that clearly takes its cue from the female form, as illustrated by the Infiniti M advertisement that I photoshopped over the top of a supine nude.

Assuming for the sake of argument, if only briefly, what are some of the characteristics that we might wish to play up if we take this line of thinking? Daring? Naturally. Think of Killacycle screaming down the drag strip.

A bit risque? Yes. Since when is 0-to-60 in under 4 seconds off a traffic light "legal"?

Rebellious? Of course. How much more anti-establishment can you get than driving a vehicle that uses little, or better yet, not a damned drop of filthy petroleum? Talk about 'stick'n it to the man.' Here's my one-finger salute to BP, Shell, Exxon, etc., and all their corporate shills in all those well-heeled, right-wing 'think tanks,' PR firms, and in-their-hip-pocket-politicians.

Mysterious? Oh, yeah! How the hell do these things work and what would I do if I owned one?

Forbidden? Absolutely. How long has society told you they won't work? They're too expensive? They're impractical?

Pleasurable? Oooh! Just this side of orgasmic. What do you think that 'EV smile' is all about?

Let's be honest, why do you think the Tesla Roadster suddenly captured everyone's imagination? Every guy on the planet could envision himself silently trolling Venice Beach with its bikinied skaters or racing along the Pacific coast north of Malibu in one of these. It's fast, sleek and about as "bad-ass" as you can get and still be legal, as well as "environmentally-responsible."

This isn't to say that every EV should be a low-slung, sexed-up, sports car: God forbid. I had enough trouble squeezing my aging frame into and out of the first Tesla I ever rode in. No, what I am trying to say we need to change the public's perception of electric cars so that we're not always defending their shortcomings. Want to get the adrenaline flowing, the blood coursing, the hormones raging... and people talking? Then EVs need to be perceived as just a tiny bit illicit, slightly promiscuous, and very, very naughty.

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