The Editorial: Supercharger

The Editorial: Supercharger

Car = evil. Car = obsolete. Or at least that’s today’s binary, politically correct (and intellectually dishonest) line on the topic. Certainly, our planet’s health could benefit from having far fewer of them farting up epic loads of CO2 while stuck on perpetually constipated motorways. And it’s lovely to imagine a world where all good cities amount to pleasant amalgamations of walkable neighbourhoods with sunny dispositions. But from Moscow to Sydney to Rome to Brooklyn to Berlin and back again, short of starting from scratch (or drastically changing our ideas about where we may and may not travel) good luck tossing that sinful old contraption of transgression! You walk across South Side Chicago and let me know how that works out for you. Take your three children to school from the Stockholm suburbs on a bike. In the dead of winter. And you should probably just abandon that villa in Tuscany (or acquire a few horses), because you’re an asshole for not living in a walkable city centre. Views!? Trees!? Quiet!? You’re mad!


So, it’s pretty obvious, even to a dense city-dwelling smartphone-obsessed bicycle warrior, that the car is (and should be) here to stay. Much like the Internet, the car both shrank and radically enlarged the world, and it is only natural that successive innovations in the built environment were gleefully built with that miracle contraption in mind. Yes, we’re stuck within an environment that has been to a large degree built at car instead of human scale. But, consider the dramatic quality of life increase the automobile once brought! After all, hindsight is 20/20, and so on.

It was with great fanfare this week that Tesla unveiled its Supercharger charging station: a solar-powered quick charging dock of sorts that will extend the range of its already impressive electric cars, and they return electricity to the grid! In fact, they will contribute more energy in a year’s time than they will dispense to cars. Slam dunk. We’re listening.

Tesla are doing a masterful job of making electrics a provocative proposition, and they are doing well to show some leg in their boutique-style shops around the world. Up until Tesla (and the less well-conceived but still beautiful Fisker Karma), electrics have generally been ugly golf carts. Now they’re mostly Nissan Leafs (which are ugly golf carts with zen green paint and a nice user-interface). And since it remains quite possible that your electric might run on juice derived from coal, their claim to eco-fame is easily contested. Innovations like the Supercharger, masterfully, sexily executed by smart, connected companies like Tesla could shift that balance overnight.

So, instead of damning the car to the scrap heap altogether, it would serve us all a bit better to practice some honest pragmatism and instead carefully consider how the personal transportation itself should look in the not-too-distant future. Imagine the post-car car, if you will. And as much as I love her, the future isn’t my bike. It’s polyamorous. Beep beep, babe.

For a bit more to get excited about, watch Kevin Rose’s recent excellent Foundation interview with the very charismatic Musk.

Tag Christof