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Txchnologist: Why Are Electric Car Demonstrations So Boring?


Camp Jeep Outdoor Off Roading Ride Along at New York Auto Show [Matthew Van Dusen/Txchnologist]

Camp Jeep Outdoor Off Roading Ride Along at New York Auto Show [Matthew Van Dusen/Txchnologist]

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The New York Auto Show, which opened to the public on Saturday, has elicited some barely stifled yawns from the automotive press.

The slightly tweaked top-selling Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima, conservatively styled to defend its No. 2 position, just don’t get the pulse racing like the showpieces of yesteryear.

But far and away the most boring exhibition – the full Ambien, if you will – was tucked away in a corner of the bottom floor of the Javits Center’s showrooms.

That’s where the electric cars at the EV Pavilion slowly and soundlessly lulled auto lovers to sleep doing laps around a partitioned-off track.

In a piece of art direction that can only be described as self-sabotaging, the interior of the track was lined with a white picket fence and an Astroturf lawn.

It was hard to guess the exact purpose of the EV Pavilion, beyond showing attendees that plug-in electric cars can do laps of the world’s ugliest suburb at 5 miles per hour.

MORE: 2010 Detroit Auto Show: The Confusing Wrongness of 'Electric Avenue'

Or maybe the intent was to make Jeep’s outdoor “Awesomeness Pavilion,” AKA the ”Camp Jeep Outdoor Off Roading Ride Along,” seem that much more awesome.

The stunt drivers in the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon took thrilled participants through a series of obstacles that threatened to roll the vehicle, bog it down hopelessly in a simulacrum of quicksand or send the vehicle tumbling end over end down an 18-foot slope better suited to ski jumpers then cars.

The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is kind of like a rollercoaster you can yank off the rails and take home for $33,570.

If you could have caught your breath after seeing this bravura performance, you might have asked, when did we get so good at solving problems that no one actually has?

There are few places in America that even allow the kind of environmentally damaging driving at which the Jeep excels and these exhibitions are always particularly hilarious in Manhattan, the most engineered environment in history.

The Jeep engineers and designers deserve praise for conceiving such a rugged vehicle and then turning it up to 11 (the soundtrack at the pavilion, by the way, was a masterpiece of arena jock jams mashed up with a compactness that would shame Madison Square Gardens’ PA operators) but, really, they’re marketing a smaller, more affordable Hummer.


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Comments (4)
  1. Wow, I was so confused by the Voelcker by-line versus the content of the article. Now that I realize that Voelcker didn't actually write this piece, my view of the natural world order is restored. But anyway...

    Excellent article and very well put. The best line is:
    "when did we get so good at solving problems that no one actually has?"
    You said it brother. We have actual problems to solve and the vertical hill climb is not one of them.

    Great article.
     
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  2. @John: Ha, thanks for the reminder. Just switched the byline to "High Gear Media" staff, which is normally what we use when we pick up a Txchnologist piece. Sorry for the cognitive dissonance.

    (OTOH, see the one I *did* write on the 2010 Detroit Show 'Electric Avenue' catastrophe ... linked inside this piece.)
     
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  3. Well, I'll have to go back and read the linked article.

    But thanks for bringing the Txchnologist article to GCR, it is excellent. Actually there are a lot of great articles on GCR today. Thanks.
     
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  4. Actually, rereading the 2010 Detroit Show piece is very illuminating. It shows how far the EV industry has come. The NEV image problem is hardly even discussed anymore now that the LEAF and VOLT are shipping in serious numbers and other real EVs are on the way.

    2010 was a time where there was still some uncertainty about whether or not the LEAF and Volt would ship, and now we have a new conversation about whether or not they have shipped enough to be considered a failure or not.

    The debate has shifted from will the EVs work, to how will the EV adoption rate compare to hybrids, better; worse?

    Yes, the article reveals significant progress has been made since 2010.
     
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