Aaron Turpen: No, Buying an Electric Car Does Not Make You a Democrat

Cowboy State Daily automotive columnist Aaron Turpen writes: "While you may or may not be ready for an electric vehicle right now, you will likely see them as commonplace in your lifetime. And considering one wont change your political affiliation. I promise."

Aaron Turpen

July 05, 20227 min read

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By Aaron Turpen, columnist
Cowboy State Daily automotive writer

This is going to burst some bubbles. I know. You’ve probably already come up with a response based purely on the title of this article, but bear with me a little before you type off in all caps at me. It’ll be worth it. I promise good information and bad dad jokes.

I recently was at a family reunion for family I’m married into. I met a bunch of people I didn’t know before and can still only vaguely understand how everyone’s related. For me, that’s hard to wrap my head around as I spent a fair amount of time in Utah as a teenager and learned how everyone there, at some point or another, had a Kevin Bacon with everyone else. No matter how diverse the crowd.

At any rate, during this family reunion, I met with a now-we’re-related guy named Tim. We had a long conversation. Because Tim owns a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner that started life as a drag car and continues its life, under his care and restoration, as a street-legal drag machine. If there’s anything I can carry a conversation at length with, it’s talking about cars.

At some point in that conversation, Tim asked me what is my favorite car that I’ve driven so far this year. A not unusual question for me to be asked, given that what I do for a living means that I daily drive around 100 vehicles every year.

I promptly answered that it was the Ford Mustang Mach-E. He was surprised. After showing some knowledge of what his classic muscle car would have been like stock and asking details about his engine boring and tuning techniques, he was amazed that an electric car would be my favorite. So I explained myself to him. Starting with my corniest vegetable joke.

But back to cars, I chose the Mach-E because it doesn’t just run from zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, but it’s also a joy to drive. And that, to me, is what matters. I have very few biases when it comes to vehicles. I like trucks, sport utilities, muscle cars, tiny little sports cars, oddly-shaped foreign jobs, school buses, monster trucks, rally racing, off-road beasts, etc. I just like to drive.

Each vehicle has a different appeal and each kind of vehicle and powertrain for that vehicle also has an attraction. I like electrics because they give smooth power delivery. And most have the batteries down the middle of the car, so they tend to have excellent balance and dynamics. I also like the throaty, refined sound of a British V8 and the grunting growl of well-done American muscle.

In short, I like to drive vehicles. This is why I do what I do.

If I’ve learned anything as an American, it’s that politics get into everything in our country. I remember a time when that was not the so much the case, but that time was long ago.

Today, everything becomes political. We worship our divides and the tribal feelings of “we’re better than them” that result. Most of the memes on Facebook and commentary on Twitter are just that: Me vs You.

Being unaffiliated and libertarian in my political view, I’ve often found myself shoved into one group or another based on a comment or a question I pose. Usually by those who don’t see anything beyond elephants and donkeys.

So it is with electric vehicles. We collectively see an EV as either good or evil based purely on how we believe it fits in politics. Which is stupid. Yes, politics get into everything because government eventually gets into everything, but hating the object does nothing to change things.

Just as we don’t hate the soldier for participating in a politically-motivated war we shouldn’t hate the electric car just because some political figure says they are the future. Things change and we can’t always control that change.

Currently, polls are showing that about 60-70 percent of Americans would consider an electric car as their next new car purchase (depending on the poll).

For political affiliation and thoughts, one poll–created by an EV advocacy group but verified independently–asked questions of a cross-section of Americans who are both active voters and in the market for a new car in the next 3 years.

The Zero Emissions Transportation Association (ZETA) polled people nationally back in February with interesting results.

They found that the divide between the two major political parties is wide, with about half of Republicans (49%) saying they support incentives to buy an EV and about 79 percent of Democrats saying that they do.

But 72 percent of unaffiliated independents, which make up the bulk of the voters in the U.S., say that they think incentivizing EVs in some way is a good idea. This means that nearly two thirds of Americans overall are willing to give an EV a chance if the circumstances are right for them.

And unless half of the Republican party is made up of RINOs [insert Cheney joke here], which seems ludicrous, that means that a lot of GOP voters are not only interested in electric cars, but are willing to subsidize them in one way or another.

Then we consider the merits of electric vehicles: they’re simpler, easier to own and maintain, and generally cheaper in the long run. They may or may not be more environmentally upstanding when compared to gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles and they may or may not be “better” in some specific circumstance or other, but for the majority of people the majority of the time, they’re great. Or at least will be soon enough.

An electric car reduces a vehicle with about 30,000 or so parts down to a couple of thousand. Less complexity means less things to break. Fewer moving parts mean fewer things to have to take apart to figure out what went wrong. And cheaper fuel means cheaper operation.

If I know anything about consumers who buy vehicles, it’s that convenience sells. Every time. The more convenient (aka “easier”) the vehicle is to them, the more likely they are to buy it and keep it.

With a large chunk of the maintenance required of a combustion vehicle going away with electrics, that’s a convenience most will be happy with. As for the convenience of fueling, well, most of us can just plug an electric car into our house.

Eventually that will be the norm at apartment complexes as well. And while road trips and other things are a hassle with an EV now, they won’t be for much longer. Infrastructure is rolling out quickly.

So on practical terms, while you may or may not be ready for an electric vehicle right now, you will likely see them as commonplace in your lifetime. And considering one won’t change your political affiliation. I promise.

(Looking back, I didn’t really include much in the way of dad jokes. So what’s black on white on black on white on black on white? A penguin rolling downhill.)

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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Aaron Turpen