Perfection or Progress?

I grew up with “practice makes perfect”.

My son came home from middle school with “practice makes progress”.

I find this changed rendition much, much more empowering. Perfection always seems unattainable and, through that lack of reach-ability, the original expression disincentives me to practice. But progress? That is seriously empowering.

I am part of a Facebook group devoted to EV (electric vehicle) owners. A couple of times over the past few years we have had heated debates as to whether the group should include only BEV (battery electric vehicles) owners, or be open to PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) owners as well. As the owner of an Audi A3 e-tron, which is a PHEV, I am concerned about the debate, the tone, and the potential for damage to our progress. I was frozen from commenting for a week or two and my husband removed from the group after the last debate. I am not angry or hurt as much as concerned and a bit disappointed.

Yes, BEV owners have made a serious jump to adopt innovative technology. They have to plan longer trips to know where charge stations are, and they have totally divested from fossil fuel in the use of that car. I understand the need to hold up BEV owners as an example of achievement and market shift, and I love that the owners can be part of an elitist pack, proud of their early adoption, and so spirited they tempt others to join in.

AND there is room for more.

I also applaud those that can’t quite get to full BEV status, but have chosen to at least push the market in the way they best can. They can “work” the mileage on the PHEV, and be proud of getting the most out of a tank of gas. We hit 1,000 miles on one tank last summer. Our most recent tank, in June, gave us 833 miles of travel which only missed out on the thousand mark because of several trips out to our old mobile home “camp” in Petersburgh, where my husband writes, and where we play in a temporary pool in the hottest days of summer. Still, most of our driving was within the 24 mile electric range of the car, and we arranged some trips to make that happen. I’ve also learned to drive differently so we can get to the Y and back all-electric twice a week.

AND it is our only car.

That’s, I think, where I get stuck. When you practice to become perfect, “perfection” is a singular goal, a “my way”, or a silver bullet answer or a singular method of achievement. To me, that is false perfection. The perfection in nature is diverse and redundant, where every bit of waste is food for another laudable system or process, and that diversity allows for adaptation, growth, and resiliency. And we don’t have time to debate if, for a family of three, a single PHEV is better or worse than a BEV plus a gas vehicle. Either choice (and many other paths) are better choices than we could make before.

If the EV Drivers Group is to create and support progress, it must celebrate any type of electric vehicle, as well as anyone interested in growing into an electric vehicle. The group can then discuss how transformational it is to be a one-car family with a PHEV, making the planning choices, living in a walkable city, and opting to commute to work by bus as much as possible. It will be a group that can applaud when the PHEV makes a trip with three kayaks on the roof, even if some of that trip is via hybrid. The market shift potential is strong, here. The challenges of being a one-car family, and that one car being a PHEV versus a two car family where one is a BEV and one is an all gas SUV or a truck for the farm work can be explored. The group can also then discuss urban living, tackle the challenges of charging in environments with only on-street parking, and discuss how local businesses can be part of the solution, what services need to exist to support those occasional trips where you need a big burly vehicle, or how to rent the Home Depot truck. Then the group can discuss mobility, complete streets, parking near transit hubs and the need for chargers in those hubs, share vehicles, state incentives, carpooling. It can welcome welcome electric lawn mower and boat owners. And it can also do the higher tech debates about batteries, make and model, driving styles, and range extension tricks. It can host BEV drives up local mountains, petition for additional BEV vendors in NY, do drive events, and more.

If we make this group, or any group, about only those who are fully committed and owners of only the best BEV are we stopping progress by not sharing our experience and knowledge with the uninitiated? Are we becoming an exclusive early-adopters club that turns its back on the practice needed to make progress?

Only by welcoming all will we actually change the market, share knowledge, normalize all the new tech, and celebrate progress.

If the goal is to be an apart, in-looking, elitist club, then this group should be all BEV members, touting the advancements in the tech, lauding new models in the market, and celebrating new and existing owners. This choice will limit market transformation as achievers will only be engaging with the already converted.

If the goal is to change the world, then this group must remain open to those who know little or nothing about BEVs, to drivers who try to reduce their mileage, to families who drop to one car, to people who brag about their bicycle miles as well as their mpg equivalency for their PHEV. Only by welcoming all will we actually change the market, share knowledge, normalize all the new tech, and celebrate progress.

To bring it to a point, the owner of a group needs to make a decision, and, quite frankly, stick with it. If this is a BEV only group, that is acceptable, and the group leader shoudl rename the group to clearly indicate this. It is ingenuous to welcome PHEV participants and then scold them for “weaseling their way into joining” a supposedly BEV-only Facebook group.

However, a restrictive group will lose the ability to make significant, transformational, regional market shift.

Be Greener (and change the world),



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