Easing up to the stoplight, I was startled to hear a staccato of loud pops as a svelte, wannabe-sports-car pulled up in the lane next to me. I looked over at the loud pronouncement.

The driver was sitting low in his seat so all I could see was his tousled hair sticking out from his ball cap. He looked over at me. Was that a slight smile or a sneer? He gave a subtle head toss aimed in the direction we were faced. The message was clear. “Want to go?” The question was accented with a sharp second volley of pops from his steed. I could not answer his car’s tinny challenging call with an engine that runs closer to mute.

I never had a muscle car until now. As a teen if you had a muscle car you could turn heads, particularly female ones.  As for me, I drove a six-cylinder 1963 Comet. That little pale green Buick did not turn heads. 

The Comet flared out when I was a freshman in college so I bought a four-year-old blue-green ’65 Ford Mustang. The $750 car was in excellent condition with 36,000 miles on it. It was not powered by the more common snappy eight- cylinder, 289 cc engine. Instead, it charged down the highway with the help of a mighty six-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission. I didn’t even have to think about shifting. I tried to macho it up  with four shiny baby moon hubcaps and installed a wood steering wheel. Man that car could purr. 

So it seemed only fitting that a year ago, when our 2004 Prius edged towards 300,000 miles we decided to go “muscle car.” And the new muscle car on the street is unequivocally the electric car. 

Two words make it such a hot car: instant torque. The fast acceleration is made possible by the electric current combined with magnetic fields in the motor powering each pair of wheels. A gas engine takes much longer to combust gas and turn the crankshaft.

We started our research and talked to folks who either had one or knew more about electric cars than we did. Ultimately we chose the electric vehicle (EV) that currently gives the best range per charge and that was a Tesla. The greater impetus was to lessen our household carbon footprint. It was just over a year ago that we silently drove a Model Y home. 

While the up-front cost was far more than I had ever paid for a car, we will save significant money during the course of its life. The two primary maintenance items will be replacing wiper blades and tires. No dollars will be spent on an exhaust system, radiator, water pump, timing belt, transmission, gas or oil, and more. We will not have to replace our brakes nearly as often since the car uses regenerative braking which creates electricity the second you let your foot off the accelerator. Best of all there will be zero tailpipe emissions. 

We “fill” our car by charging it at home with off-peak wind-generated electricity.  The first month we charged at home our off-peak bill was $12. Since then our highest monthly bill has been around $20. If we had good southerly exposure we could charge it with sunshine collected by a photovoltaic system. 

As with all vehicles there are emissions released in the manufacture of EVs. People who are concerned with the use of cobalt and the rare earth minerals will be glad to know that Tesla is going to zero-cobalt batteries and other EV manufacturers have cut cobalt use by 70 percent. 

According to a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, EVs will be cost competitive with combustion-engine cars by 2022. The trend is due to the plunging price of EV batteries. In addition, the cost of renewable energy is drastically falling.

The cleanest unit of energy is the one that is not used. But we are still going to need energy. So where do we get it?  In order to drive down carbon emissions and attempt to slow the climate crisis, we need to move quickly to renewable energy sources. Throughout human history, energy transitions have never been easy. Whether it was steam power, coal, oil, nuclear and solar power, there are segments of the population that are resistant to the change.  Consequently change is ponderous.

We tested the range of the electric car when we drove from Minnesota to Tacoma, Washington for Christmas. The heavy battery is under the floor of the car so it is close to the road. Consequently the car handles curves and quick moves like a darting red squirrel. 

We learned much. Our fears about running out of power were set aside. We asked the car, “Navigate to Tacoma” and a map of our route appeared on the screen that resides alone on the dash. It showed all the Tesla Supercharger stations on our route. We assumed that we would be charging the battery fully at each stop. Not necessary. The car tells you how much you need to charge to get to the following charging station. Only once, in the long open country of Montana did we feel a niggle of anxiety when a message appeared on the screen that told us we had to drop our speed by 5 mph to get to the next charging station. We made the adjustment and got there with 4% of a charge remaining. 

Our average time charging the car was 20 minutes. Admittedly that is slower than filling a gas tank, but after a couple of days of traveling Nancy and I realized the gift in the longer breaks. Not only did it allow plenty of time for a bathroom or snack break, but it had us taking a brisk walk or short jog. After a day of driving, our bodies felt much better with the periodic exercise.  

The average cost for charging was $10. In summertime we can expect to get about 315 miles with a fully charged battery. As with traditional gas powered cars, efficiency drops in the winter. 

We were nervous about going over the mountain passes in winter. We encountered a couple inches of slush and while we carried chains we did not need them. The car handled wonderfully. Some people worry about really cold weather and EVs. In northern Canada, two Yukon Territory acquaintances drive EVs and they have had no problems. 

 Back at the stoplight, I waited for the signal to turn green. 

I struggled with my decision to give the “the kid” a sobering lesson on what instant torque was all about. I decided  this was not the place for such a duel. I was not willing to be party to a traffic violation or a potential accident.   

I politely smiled, gripped the steering wheel and raised two fingers in greeting. The light turned green and his explosive farewell was a lingering cloud of exhaust that rose to merge with a civilization’s legacy of denial and inaction.

Note: Feel free to contact me if you have Tesla questions. And if you do choose to buy one, the following link and referral code will garner each of us 1000 free Supercharger miles.  https://ts.la/nancy73623