Re: Weekend cars face an uncertain future

(as originally posted to CleanMPG)

There's a certain visceral appeal of the muscle or performance car, and
the carmakers have of course played this to the hilt for years.  The
animal growl, the teeth, the muscular shoulders, the carefully molded-in
lines that say "I and my fine steed are gonna chew you up like helpless
prey and spit what's left out the tailpipe" ... something about how the
whole picture goes together can appeal strongly to the animal in humans.
You see it every time one of those jacked-up pickups with the big pipes
takes off beside you.  They've blasted you with noise, they've asserted
their jungle authority.  It's the big manly way to save time and appear
all tough and capable, even if it really isn't.

Back in the day it was likely more about horses and of course the
aforementioned weapons, but really, think about all the classic stories
in which a human teams up with an animal to form the unstoppable pair,
even if it doesn't matter what they're supposedly fighting... it's just
something about *having* a certain capability that matters.  [In other
words, power corrupts.]  Vehicles quite possibly map closely to those
befriended/allied animals in our minds ... they stand at four [or even
two] points, they cast their keen gaze forward, they move by themselves,
they inhale breath at the front and emit waste out the rear.  And more
importantly they do what WE want.  Somehow the "coming to life" of that
big block with the lumpy cam, its attack roar when the throttle is goosed,
and the feel of the cheetah-like launch is just not going to easily go
away for a lot of people.  There's a definite sexiness about it that's
often hard to suppress, no matter that it happens to be accomplished
right now via a poor implementation that wastes a lot of precious
resource, is entrenched firmly into our culture, and we don't have a
better or alternate way widespread enough yet.
[image: 57 chevy from HF07]
What somehow needs to happen, and I have no idea how it's going to be
accomplished, is to somehow conjure up the same sort of appeal in that
barely audible pitiful little whine most inverters emit and pride in
the fact that you've made it whine *just* enough to get over the little
rise and make it to the next stop with over 90% conversion efficiency
out of your dead-silent battery pack.  Even the axle-bustin' electric
drag racers are going to have trouble stirring that same emotional
response in many people.  Short of adding the external speakers and
"harley sound" synthesizer box, how do we ever hope to make electric
transport appeal to so many people on that same level? Unless the new
unspoken one-upmanship becomes "sneak up on your adversaries and bump
'em in the butt with your nose" ...

For years now I've found it more rewarding to consider the physics of
a large heavy object acted upon by a relatively small force and spend
my mental bandwidth calculating where the object will be and how fast
it's moving ten seconds from now, almost doing my own little version
of orbital mechanics on the fly.  I would often refer to it as "two tons
of scrap metal, four undernourished hampsters, do the math".  Brains over
brawn, elegant and precise dynamics.  But holding that up as "fun with
a vehicle" appeal is way too cerebral for most people.  I understand
both viewpoints, but have no idea how to go about bridging them.