Bikes vs cars


Electric filling station!

Yesterday I went down to Golden to visit a scientist at the National Renewable Energy Lab. For the occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to rent an electric vehicle. I happen to be a member of a carshare that has two on its list, so I reserved one that sits outside of the super hippie grocery store in Boulder.
I just happened to have scheduled this for exactly the same time as Bike to Work Day. When I went to pick up the car, I found myself surrounded by people on bikes. Plus the car was parked in a tight spot, so I found myself surrounded by people on bikes trying to direct me so that I wouldn’t hit anyone as I pulled out of the parking space. I joked with them that at least I was driving an electric vehicle.
I confess I was a bit flustered: I don’t get to drive often, and I don’t get to drive electric vehicles often. Normally I am on my bike (which amuses my friend D’s boyfriend to no end — he was convinced that I would buy or lease a car sooner or later while I am here in Boulder). As I was totally screwing up while trying to maneuver the car out of the spot, a woman on the sidewalk wearing bike racing gear leaned into my window (wide open for hearing instructions) and said, “hey do you have a driver’s license?” — only half jokingly. “Yes!” I practically shouted. “And I’m usually on my bike!”
Biking in town here generally gets you to your destination faster than the bus, and driving can be somewhere in the middle. Sometimes there is traffic, and parking can be difficult.
I know having a car offers some conveniences, among them locker space to carry your crap around. Windshields are also nice, particularly when the wind is blowing so fast that it would probably push you over on your bike, like the high winds blowing yesterday afternoon. Heat in a small enclosed space is also quite nice when it’s cold and wet. Plus it takes less than an hour to go 60 miles or more, instead of all day.
If I had to get a car, I would be happy with this cute little electric one that I drove yesterday. It doesn’t go up hills very well, especially when you are trying to go fast, but it’s so fun to watch the battery *not* go down!
It’s hard to explain — the dash has graphics that show how far the car can go on battery or gas power. I went about 60 miles on a battery that it said had a capacity of about 40, and I think I used gas to go two miles of that total. Plus I got to plug the thing in when I got to NREL.
I cannot explain why that was so thrilling. I think it’s because I felt like I was getting away with something. Free car travel, no gas!
Of course, nothing is free. Electric vehicles require certain materials for their batteries that have environmental consequences. And depending on what region you are in, the electricity that feeds them might be from coal.
There are tradeoffs in all things. But oh man, that was fun.

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