In the 1970s MotorTrend spilled many inks protesting against federally-mandated emissions and fuel efficiency standards. We claimed that government mandates could increase car prices, burden our infrastructure, force people to purchase vehicles they don’t want and that they would not solve the air pollution problem.
Yes, emission standards have made cars more prone to damage for an extended period. Anyone born in the 1970s will remember engines that were smothered by smog-related equipment, which made them difficult to start as well as challenging to adjust. It’s no secret that this Clean Air Act led us to our Malaise Era.
However, the Clean Air Act also led us to the end of our Malaise Era. Automobile manufacturers knew that buyers wouldn’t be willing to pay for engines that were running poorly, and it did not aid Detroit with the emergence of new Japanese rivals–such as Honda, whose CVCC engine was built to 1975 standards without a catalytic converter Americans would buy cars with emissions standards provided they were reliable enough.
The manufacturers also developed improvements in ignition, fuel delivery, and thermal management, which helped make engines cleaner and more efficient. We were mistaken in assuming they couldn’t fix the pollution problem. Ask anyone who’s resided in our town in Los Angeles since the early 1970s. Yes, we suffer from smog, but we’ve got 1.5 times more cars in the streets than we did in 1973, and yet we’re only able to bring about a quarter of the smog-forming low-level oxygen within our atmosphere.
What we would have known at the beginning of the 1970s was that the same modifications that made engines more efficient would also make them more efficient and smoother as well. The final consequence of these government directives would be vehicles more appealing to enthusiasts than ever before. In 1973, we were amazed by a car that could go from 0 to 60 in under six seconds and then sit in an encirclement of traffic with the AC running and not register even a slight twitch in a temperature indicator. It was impossible for even the most potent motor cars of 1960 could accomplish this. Nowadays, you can pick from a variety of.
It’s a cycle of history when the federal government pushes for the conversion to electric vehicles. This isn’t well with many Americans, and we understand it: Freedom is about choosing. But this time, we’re at the forefront of change, as we’ve witnessed the power of electric cars. Take the Rivian R1T, our 2022 Truck of the Year. We chose it not because it was fashionable. We chose it because, never in the 73 years of the publication’s existence have we driven a car that can do the same thing as the R1T can, that is, tow and haul like an SUV, off-roading like the back of a Jeep and corner like an automobile and accelerate like a hypercar, all at the quietness and ease of operation which no Rolls-Royce has yet achieved.
The sole motive that the Rivian can accomplish this is that the vehicle we tested was equipped with four motors that are one for each wheel. The powertrain and the clever suspension design make it an imposing car and an absolute pleasure to drive. The fact that it does not emit pollutants, requires a lot less maintenance, and can be “refueled” at home are additional benefits for us as far as they’re interested.
Automakers have proven not likely to take this route on their own. Electric vehicles have been in use for over 100 years. However, it was Tesla as a player, like the Japanese played in the 1970s, to demonstrate that appealing and desirable EVs could be made and that consumers would purchase these vehicles.
We’ve received feedback from readers of MT readers who claim they’ll never be driving an electric vehicle. We think they’re not getting the best deal, as electric cars can offer new levels of performance, control (well apart from the weight issue, at least for the moment), and precision that internal combustion power cannot achieve. There are some teething issues, but we’re sure that the industry will be able to solve them as it has done in the past. Automakers understand that Americans want range and are creating batteries that have higher power density–more energy in less space–just as they sought cleaner, more efficient engines many years ago.
MotorTrend isn’t being absorbed by a group of car-loving, eco-conscious teens. We’ve not changed. We’re still enthusiasts. We used to say similar things to one another that many of you are expressing to us today. We love an internal combustion engine. Electricity is great, but it will never replace petroleum in our hearts.
Now that we’ve seen the potential EVs are capable of–and they’re at the beginning of this technology, we’re exuberant. Like emissions-compliant engines, electric power will enhance the enjoyment of driving. Making tracks, towing a trailer, or tying up the Tetons, electric vehicles will be able to do these tasks more efficiently than combustion engines, similar to how computer-controlled direct-injected vehicles can do better than cars equipped with point-breaker ignitions and carburetors.
Sure, we’ll miss the burbling engines and pedals for clutches. We’re sure that many Stanley Steamer fans missed the loud chuffing sounds and vast clouds of smoke. Many of us will keep internal combustion vehicles in our garages, precisely as we have the old, gross polluters today.
In contrast to the 1970s, we see the future more clearly. We know that the push for electric vehicles will improve the quality of life for motoring enthusiasts and non-fans, the way that the emissions and fuel economy regulations have done. If it requires some government push to bring it about, we’ll be content with it.