While I am not currently an active member of AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference), I do keep on eye on their social media, as I’m toying with the idea of trying endurance again in a year or two with Tarma. A few days ago a member posted asking about electric trucks, specifically for hauling horses, and while the admin has turned off commenting, I have a lot to say on this topic. I preface everything I’m about to say with an acknowledgement that I am part of the problem; I am newly in procession of a 2010 Ram 2500 Cummins diesel, purchased specifically to better haul my new (currently, finally, in production!!!!!!) horse trailer, for it’s increased power and ability above my old F150, which had a 3.5L Ecoboost gas engine.
Before I dive in, I want to state my stance up front, so you can feel free to quit reading if you don’t think you’ll gain anything from this. I believe climate change is occurring, and it’s adversely effecting my son’s and his future children’s ability to grow free in a world where power and food are as cheaply and easily available as they have been to some segments of the world. As someone who works for a for profit company and has an expensive hobby, I’m constantly fighting the feeling of being born in between times; too late to just enjoy what’s in front of me without much worry, and too early to really be a part of changing things for the better, environmentally wise. I know and am taking steps to do better, such as trying to compost, but no matter how “green” I go, I’m only saving a relatively small amount of impact on the world.
One of my favorite shows, The Good Place, dived a bit more deeply into this concept. Even someone who considers every single choice and action still has a negative impact on the world in some way, and no one has the time to live so deeply concerned and so carefully. As with so many things, we do the best we can with what we have, and adjust when we learn new things or have better options. If I could trade my 2500 diesel for an electric truck that offered more or less the same range, power, and security for hauling my mare around, I would do so and plan to do so as soon as it’s a viable option.
To bounce back to the AERC post, the comments were, perhaps not surprisingly, overwhelmingly but not wholly anti-electric trucks for hauling. Gas and diesel powered vehicles have been around long enough and been reliable enough for folks to be leery of new technology, and several folks rightfully pointed out some serious considerations. Aside from those, however, most of the anti-electric crowd seemed derisive of the very idea, calling names such as “lefties” and “greenies” like that’s a bad thing. There’s the additional “all change is bad” crowd in all their various flavors, from “I live where there are more cows than people” to “I want to be able to fix things myself”.
The top two complaints, however, seem to be a balance between “electric vehicles aren’t any more green than gas powered ones” and flexibility considerations. In order to haul heavy loads safely, we need to have a certain amount of power and security (just look at the F150/1500 versus 2500/350 debate sometime!) This is going to have an environmental cost somewhere to supply that power and technical ability. For now, the choices are digging up liquified dinosaurs, which we know is a limited use option (oil and gas will, as some point in the future, be unavailable, though it’s deeply debated how close that point is), or using electric, which as folks rightfully point out comes with it’s own issues. Those issues with electric are currently focused on mining lithium for batteries, power to weight ratio, recharging abilities (it’s quicker to fill up a diesel tank than charge a battery, a prime consideration when hauling live animals long distances), and power sources (the grid, as we’ve all seen this past year between the Texas shit show and California’s fires and PNW fires and floods, not to mention the Gulf Coast’s yearly relationships with hurricanes and the Midwest with their tornados) is not as robust as it needs to be to power our everyday lives in the manner we’ve become accustomed to, let alone the additional burden of millions of electric vehicles charging up.
However, what those folks miss in the weeds is the overall consideration that we don’t have this infrastructure for electric vehicles yet because we haven’t put the money and brainpower there. As other’s point out, gas vehicles didn’t start with the ability to fill up on every corner either. It took about 50 years for gas stations to become so widely available after the adoption of cars (citation needed, but the point stands). Gas and oil extraction is just as messy and dangerous and dirty a job as it’s always been, it just tends to be a more “hidden cost” as most folks don’t drive past oil derricks on a daily basis. All the problems mentioned for electric vehicles are, with enough effort (read as time, money, and brainpower) solvable, just as they were for fuel powered vehicles (the difference in hauling power and capability from, say, a 1980 F350 and a 2021 Ram 3500 is immense, as that’s where the effort was focused).
This is not to say that even in 20 years, electric vehicles will be completely equivalent to the power we’re accustomed to from today’s diesel engines; resources such as lithium and other components to manufacture electric vehicles, and power generation, either through gas, renewables such as solar and hydro, are in more limited supply or harder to generate than they were 50 years ago. The hardest part of this debate stems from the fact that we don’t live in that world anymore, and our children will live in a more restricted world than we have currently. Major changes in every faucet of our lives, from the clothes we choose to wear, how we source our food to how we pursue our hobbies is changing and will be forced to change more still, and that’s such a huge, hard, unwelcome fact that it’s easier to fight over the little things than face it. It sucks to think that hauling our horse and enjoying an endurance ride might be going the way of the dodo, or that it might continue to be possible but be harder and look different than it is today. Willfully choosing to make fun of folks who are hopeful for the future, or putting in the work, or at least being concerned, isn’t going to stop these changes from happening…which is a fact that holds true across the centuries and is as predictable as folk’s reactions have always been.
For my little corner of the world, I’ll keep reading and learning and doing the best with what we have and investing in the future in our own small ways. I wish the same for everyone, without judgement for what that looks like for them.