Machinery has always been intrinsically linked to masculinity since the male body is a machine admired for its strength, power, and precision by women and other men. This same can be said for machines designed for transportation, which is perhaps why cars have always been seen as a traditionally male interest and hobby. Within this interest, there are certain makes and models which are seen as more feminine for a number of reasons, including the size, color, transmission, and horsepower. In recent years, a growing interest in environmentalism has translated into the automotive industry with increasingly purportedly environmentally-friendly models – most of which are electric. However, the common complaint among men is that electric vehicles simply don’t feel as manly as fuel-powered vehicles. The question is, then, do electric vehicles fit in with this idea of car culture and the masculinity associated with it?
Environmentalism & Femininity
First and foremost, we need to discuss why environmentalism and caring about the planet is seen by some as an almost exclusively feminine trait, but on the flip side, disregarding the environment and other people is manly. Truthfully, it seems to stem from the fact that consumers skew disproportionally female. Women are the ones who spend more money on household items a day-to-day basis which means that brands tend to cater to the female view. When you combine this with the fact that women are by nature more drawn to being caring, nurturing mothers vs fierce strong protectors - the value system that would make products that are sustainable will generally appeal more to women than men.
In addition to this, domestic labor is still unequally divided, too, which simply reinforces the idea that these products should be marketed towards women; this then led to the eco-gender gap whereby environmentalism was seen as an inherently feminine pursuit. This is why a lot of products that are deemed to be better for the environment simply do not appeal to men.
However, we shouldn't get confused and assume that men don't care about the environment, only that our value system and the products that marketers present as examples of environmental stewardship aren't ones that men would typically care one way or the other about.
In fact, when it comes to clean water to fish in, or crispy smog-free air to cycle through, or even rich dynamic eco-systems full of prey to track and hunt ... conservation becomes a different conversation in terms of masculine interest. The same is true when technology is involved. For instance, electric vehicles, advanced materials for building design that offer superior insulating abilities, and indeed machines that are designed to sequester carbon by pulling it out of the atmosphere ... these all enjoy a high level of interest among men.
This is true on a personal lifestyle basis as well. Men - just as women - are choosing to make small differences into their daily life. This may be bringing reusable items with you to limit your use of consumables and single-use plastics. Making an effort to recycle is also important. In the end, it comes down to making an effort to become a conscientious consumer, so bear that in mind. When you understand why caring about the environment has been linked to femininity in the past, it seems silly to hinge your belief system on the decision of marketers.
The Idea of a Masculine Car
Traditionally, a masculine car is a vehicle that is seen as big and powerful, and thanks to their increased power, they are often also labeled as ‘gas guzzlers’ and are therefore not particularly fuel efficient. Girly cars, on the other hand, tend to be more compact and far more emphasis is placed on the vehicle's aesthetics. Masculine cars are meant to be rugged, tough, and traverse the countryside easily. A man’s car allows him to take on the world and anything it might throw at him. Many men do not believe an electric vehicle fits these needs. Frankly, they are right when you look at the industry today.
Beyond any stereotypical argument about what a man wants in a car, a car represents one of three things - a tool to get a job done (hauling stuff, getting from place to place, etc), a machine that does something few others can, or a symbol of wealth and prestige.
Tesla managed to produce a vehicle that was 'good enough' but the brand quickly turned into a status symbol. Ford and GMC are doing the same thing now with trucks - neither of which is remotely practical right now but it's a symbol of prestige that you have a F-150 lightning or a GMC Hummer EV that offers a blistering 0-60 mph time of only 3 seconds from it's powerful motors generating 1,000 pound-feet of torque.
While they are EVs, the point here isn't about environment or conservation. It is purely about masculine power and having a vehicle that does something nobody else can match.
Vehicles and Emissions
Transportation continues to be the largest creator of greenhouse gases in Britain and the United States today. The majority of transport emissions are obviously produced by road transport. In traditional vehicles, fuel is burnt by an internal combustion engine which produces the by-products: water and CO2. CO2 is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases. The internal combustion process also creates gases and particles, which can harm public health. Traditional vehicles produce a lot of lifetime emissions throughout the manufacturing process and the life of the vehicle operating on the roads.
There have been debates in recent years as to whether or not electric vehicles are really that much greener than traditional fuel vehicles. This is because emissions are created in the manufacturing process and during the generation of electricity needed to charge the vehicles. The consensus is that even with these taken into account, the emissions produced by electric vehicles are still lower than that produced by traditional fuel vehicles. Regardless of this, there are still a number of studies that suggest that driving overall will need to be reduced in order to hit the global climate targets.
The lifetime emissions produced by an electric vehicle largely depend on how the electricity is produced. For example, in countries like France or Sweden, which use predominately renewable or nuclear energy to produce their electricity, the lifetime emissions produced by an electric vehicle can be up to 70% lower than that of petrol cars. In Britain, most electricity is produced using fossil fuels which means that the emissions are only around 30% less than those made by a traditional fuel vehicle;. However, this is obviously still an improvement, it isn’t as dramatic.
It comes down to personal preference and what you are looking for from your vehicle. You should think about what you need from a car. Do you drive long distances often? Electric vehicles do have a range which might affect how far you can go, although charging your electric car is pretty straightforward, as outlined by this guide by LV ElectriX. You will also need to consider whether you drive predominantly in the city or the country, as there are a lot of factors that would suggest that electric vehicles are perhaps better for urban areas where there is more of an abundance of charging points.
Can An Electric Car Be Masculine?
Truthfully, the very idea of masculinity is a concept that many people are trying to redefine. Therefore, it isn’t necessarily as rigid or stringent as some assert. In recent years the concept of masculinity and what it means to be a man has shifted. This is largely due to the continued reforms that some people label as "toxic masculinity". Additionally, as society continues to move from one that values brutish figures that can get things done by force into one that prizes intellect and innovation, certain aspects of what it means to be a man are changing as well.
Along this vein, it is hard to generalize what is masculine and what isn’t. It should be up to the men individually to decide for themselves.
I think we've proven that the answer here is yes for big trucks and SUVs. Even new entrants to the EV market such as Rivian who's vehicles are closer to an iPhone than a vehicle seen on a construction site are indisputably masculine in that they are a status symbol that does stuff no other vehicle can. Dodge is following with "Muscle". Even F1 cars that use hybrid engines show that electrification is far from being exclusively feminine.
However, on the other hand, products such as the Nissan Leaf make efforts to cater to women and that's perfectly fine. Frankly, I enjoy the Leaf as well.