With my graduation from a certain liberal arts college in the spring of 2019, I had possibly the world’s most “first- world problem.” I would lose sleep over it. Sometimes I felt like I’d develop stomach ulcers on the decision: Which car should my parents buy me as a graduation gift?
Not only did I have to go through the grueling task of accepting this huge privilege in being offered a brand-spanking-new car as a gift, but there was another issue at the forefront of my mind, alike many youths today. Simply, carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere faster than anytime in the last 66 million years, and that needs to change quickly if we’re going to avoid the worst predictions of climate change. The good news is that as a society, we are right on the edge of the tipping point for renewable energy. Electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to be cheaper than conventional internal combustion vehicles by the mid-2020s, and are already cheaper to operate due to the relative price of electricity. Our choice now is to continue to develop sustainable solutions and (literally and figuratively) drive renewable options into being cheaper than fossil fuels, or plunge off in the other direction of complete climate destruction. Northfield installed a new EV charging station just as I entered the market for a new car. This left me feeling like I had the option to go as green as my eco-heart desired but had me worried that I might jump too far up the cutting edge and end up in a battery-dead vehicle in the middle of some expansive Midwest cornfield.
I found solace for these conflicting emotions by drooling over PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles). These offered the best of both the worlds of electric transportation and the internal combustion engine: clean charging with the occasional plug in, then enough range with gasoline. But even armed with the concept of the versatile PHEV, I ran into another treacherous dichotomy: my parents wanted to get an all-wheel drive vehicle, and this feature alone cuts down gas mileage significantly. Combine this unfortunate engineering factoid with the current reality that hybrids take a fuel economy beating in cold weather, and that most hybrids are sold on the coasts, limiting selection in this here ‘flyover country’, and I felt as stalled in my decision as an old pickup chalk out of diesel.
I ended up going with an all-wheel drive, gas-sucking-only vehicle to satisfy the desire of my parents for something that could get through “all that Minnesota snow.” I just hope there’s still snow left to get through in a few years. Thankfully, with more consumers making the switch due to the falling prices of EVs and renewably-source electricity, I think we have a fair shot at keeping ‘Minnesnowta’ a reality.