Running On Emptiness — Electric Cars

I like to look at myself as a pioneer in the field of electric cars. No, I can’t afford a Tesla and only hope my friends will buy the new Toyota LEAF so I can hitch an occasional quiet, smooth ride. It’s wonderful to observe the new interest in this elegant form of transportation but I had an electric ride fifty years ago.

When I was ten years old I took delight in spending summers with my grandparents in Lampassas. My grandfather was the golf pro and managing partner of the local golf course and swimming pool. It was like having my own personal resort because I had the run of the place and one of the amenities was the use of a little red electric golf cart. Every morning I would unplug my little hotrod from the charger down at the cart shed and perched atop a bank of car batteries and navigating with a stick controlling the single front wheel, I would race the Texas breeze across the dewy fairways.

The little red cart was the joy of my ten-year-old life. Even at that age I was mesmerized by its quick, smooth, assuring acceleration and the dainty, high-pitched whine of the electric motor. It was simple enough for a kid to drive, just mash this pedal and it goes and mash this one and it stops. I did manage to run it off the cart path into Sulfur Creek one day but that was more testimony to my inexperience as a driver than to the elegance of my equipment. And that’s the best description of electric transportation, elegant. It’s quiet, efficient, dependable and clean. Plus, it’s fun.

By comparison the internal combustion engine is such a rude mechanism. It’s loud, greasy and belches noxious fumes. Electric cars are ever so much more civilized. The golf course was the perfect place for them to incubate. It’s the gentleman’s game after all and likes clipped greens and white sand traps like little beaches and vast unspoiled meadows and it likes Quiet.

I would spin around all day in the red cart with my golf clubs and my BB gun and my fishing pole in the rack. On Central Texas summer afternoons things slow down and so did the little red cart. As the pecan trees relaxed in the sun the cart ran slower and slower and the motor’s hum became lower and lower. By dusk we would creep into the cart shack with only a trickle of juice left in the batteries. Like a trusty horse I would hang the electric feed-bag around his neck. This has always been the drawback of electric transportation, the batteries were too heavy and they didn’t last long enough. But those problems are being solved and the solution to those problems could also be the salvation of our industry if we are smart enough to dedicate ourselves to battery development and production. Batteries will be as important to our lives as ball-bearings were in the second world war. They will be in everything. The country that makes the batteries will rule the world.

Now what The Poet’s Eye would like to see is a battery powered electric generator.

Gentlemen look on this wonder,
Whatever the bids of the bidders they cannot be high enough for it,
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years without one
animal or plant,
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll’d.
—Whitman, Sing the Body Electric

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