Hey Bill Nye! Should I Give Up My Love of Classic Cars for Electric Ones?
Elijah Bender, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, asks Bill Nye if our nostalgia for classic muscle cars will soon be a thing of the past.
Having built a career in television and entertainment, Bill Nye is a master at meeting his audience where they are. Through the 1990s, his television program Bill Nye the Science Guy presented science and engineering in a fun, zany way to young people. Nye takes the same approach with so-called gearheads who are nostalgic for classic cars like the Mustang. Beyond the environmental impact of fossil fuel-burning vehicles, electric cars simply offer a better driving experience — not only in terms of comfort, but also in performance.
Elijah Bender: Hi Bill. My name is Elijah Bender. I'm a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and I'm a huge car enthusiast. As you can see, I have my Mustang shirt on here. Do you think in the future building classic cars and performance engines will be something that we just have to give up, or is there hope for gearheads like me who also want to be environmentally responsible? Are things like ethanol and other biofuels viable options? Thank you.
Bill Nye: Here's what I think is going to happen, my gearhead friend: Once you have access to a high-performance electric vehicle, you will never go back to gas-powered vehicles. Ethanol, schmethanol. Electric cars are just much more fun. They have so much more torque than gas-powered cars. They have maximum torque at zero. Now I can tell you I'm a guy of a certain age and my cousin had a Mustang. He had a '65 Mustang: the 289-cubic-inch engine. It's a very reliable engine. It's okay. It's an old car. It doesn't steer. It doesn't stop. The seats are hard. It's a rough ride. After you have an electric car, you just don't want anything to do with those. You'll see. Now you're getting your degree in history, but it doesn't take that much, if you're into cars and the mechanisms that run the valve lifters — those cars had pushrods. I mean they didn't have overhead cams, those old cars. What are you talking about? If you can understand the mechanisms in a traditional gas-powered engine from the muscle car area era, let's say, you'll have no trouble understanding the electric vehicles and electric motors. In the same way you have to be respectful of the energy in a gas tank, you will be respectful of the electricity in a big battery and you will figure it out man. I'm telling you.
So, what did I do a couple weeks ago? I watched the new James Bond movie Spectre. He's James Bond. He has a British sports car. Zero to 60 in 3.1 seconds. This is in a British movie and so they still use the English system. I was in a Tesla about two months ago, 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds. And I'm telling you 0.3 seconds is a lot. I mean you have no trouble telling who won if you're behind by 0.3 seconds — several car lengths. You'll never go back, man. Embrace the future. Let's have better steering mechanisms. Let's have self-driving cars. Let's have a better system for operating the accelerator. On a motorcycle, you do this and you have much better fine motor skills here than you do here. So that's just left over from when we ran out of hands and cars were first designed. So I can imagine a car with a joystick and a throttle that is operated with your hands. And you could be part of that man. Let's go. Let's change the world. We want to electrify all ground transportation — cars and trains. Then we want to use your ethanol, or something like it, biofuels to power planes. And we may use hydrogen to power planes. But all that aside, I strongly encourage you to move away from your love of gas burning vehicles. They make carbon dioxide using fossil fuels and they're just lower performance than what's available even now. The Tesla is the first thing. I drove the Nissan Leaf for three years. I drove the Mini Cooper Electric — experimental. I drove the i3, the BMW i3. You'll never go back man. I'm telling you.