Ideologies of Nature in Popular Culture: Herrick

“Driving an electric car will save the environment”

The ideology that driving an electric car is you doing your part to save the planet is a marketing scheme that can be transparently seen in the automotive industry. From branding hybrids and electric cars as ‘green’, to advertising these cars driving through scenic forests, naming electric cars ‘Leaf’, and to showing a green tank as a measure of the electric assistance a car is currently getting, the ideology that buying an electric or hybrid car is saving the trees is everywhere. While these cars do in fact not pollute the environment directly and are a part of the sustainable future, there are a great many other factors that are left out of the marketing pitch. Some of which make these cars even worse for the environment in certain scenarios.

There is a general consensus that buying an electric car is drastically reducing your carbon footprint. This sense of doing good by saving the planet is a brilliant move by auto manufacturers as they can advertise not only that this car will ‘pay for itself’ in a few short years, but over that time you can rest assured you are not going to be harming the environment. This gives the customer not only a very easy math mathematical problem to solve in gas saved over the life of the car but also a pat on the back for not taking part in the destruction of the planet. These two reasons alone give customers an excellent reason to splurge a little and purchase a brand-new top-of-the-line electric car. In addition to the excellent sales pitch that ‘green cars’ give car salesmen; these environmentally friendly cars give their owners a feeling of being above the other ‘non-green’ cars on the road. Instead of what used to be an innocent look at the older model car passing beside them, they now see a reckless polluting machine that is to be held responsible for the destruction of our home planet.

Regardless of how society is using this ideology to economically benefit, there remains the fact of the matter; are electric cars really saving the planet. Currently, less than 1% of the cars on the road are electric, and only 2% of current automotive sales are hybrids. There is no denying that these cars are only beginning to catch on and that a future where the majority of cars are electric is imminent. There is only one problem. If these cars don’t get their energy from gas combustion and are using batteries, where does this battery power originate from? If the answer is coal, these electric cars are nearly 3.6 times more pollutant than their gas-powered rivals. In order for these cars to truly be the future of sustainability, the energy sector is going to have to keep pace with this movement towards clean energy.

So next time someone in a Nissan Leaf looks down their nose at you, know that their car is on one big extension cord that could lead back to a coal-fired electric power plant.

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