Basically, every big company in the world is now offering a work-from-home option in one way or another. Let’s jump back to 2019 for a second. Can you imagine this op­tion in a pre-covid world? The most that was happening back then was outliers like Sweden trying a 4-day work week. Or, we had Heldergroen, a com­pany in Amsterdam, that had its tables attached to cables which were pulled up to the roof at 6 pm to ‘vanish’ the office and nudge a better work-life balance for the em­ployees. That was then. Today though, the obnoxious word/practice of stay­cation is becoming a norm. You can be in your bed, indulging in an exotic tour, or sitting at a local café and still be ‘at’ work. This definition of work is new. Haven’t we all, especially in Pakistan, understood working through prepar­ing for and getting to a place of work? Was this not a cemented ritual that sim­ply couldn’t be manipulated or altered? And yet, it did evolve and will do so again in the future.

Anyways, the purpose of this prelude is such: the coronavirus, a biological event (given it really was, essentially, about a smart, quickly evolving virus) manipulated, evolved, and changed an essential condition of our society. In other words, a change in a certain field ended up impacting and altering a com­pletely different field. An unforesee­able, unpredictable, and uniquely ran­dom event transformed how society at large understood a norm.

Let’s think about another imminent change: electric vehicles (EVs). Most of the propagation towards EVs rests on the premise that they are good for the environment. In a world where we can, in fact, produce completely clean en­ergy and have zero emissions, climate change could be curtailed. The EVs are seen as an essential step towards this goal. Indeed, the cleaner environment will impact us as a society demograph­ically: we will be healthier, and hence live relatively longer. But that’s more of a far-future projection. I am keener on the more near-future impacts of EVs.

EVs have large batteries which means cars will have bigger screens and au­tomated features. The car would also have the juice to be constantly connect­ed to the internet which means a cloud-run AI will become the essential inter­active tool between the occupants and the car. If, and when, cars become fully automated, driver seats could become unnecessary. In other words, traveling in a private car would become exactly that: a means to travel to a destination and not to drive to it.

These features would translate into several social choices and changes. Firstly, the constant availability of elec­tricity would impact how we use our time with cars. If you think about it, the white-person/privileged detox is most­ly around the un-using of electricity: be it social media, be it internet, be it au­tomated machinery etc. Such detoxes tend to be focused on barer, non-elec­tric forms of living. How would that change when one can travel to literally anywhere with a massive source of elec­trical energy? Also, if staycations do be­come the norm, the electricity from the EVs would allow for the possibility of working in remote areas for an extend­ed duration. Does that mean that in the future, the lines between work and life, vacations and productivity, leisure and utility would completely blur?

Now let’s focus on some of EVs ex­ternal features: Given that EVs run on motors, they don’t need an engine. Which means, the front of the car of­fers extra space for new features. For now, the front in EVs has become a frunk. Later on, it could become some­thing else entirely. Similar questions arise out of the extra space on the outside of the car as components like large radiator grills and warm, chunk­ier bulbs become obsolete. The LEDs used instead are not only smaller but also more programable.

What does it mean to have more lug­gage space? Would that impact how we make our purchases and the decisions behind our consumption? Would the ex­tra luggage space also mean longer es­capes from the cities or, what is then, the normal? Similarly, the empty space all over the cars can become canvases for self-expression or, in a more dystopi­an setting, spaces for marketing of prod­ucts or disseminating of propaganda. Could the world of tomorrow become a larger-than-life banner for capitalist rhetoric? Or maybe an outlandish, flam­boyant kaleidoscope of self-expression?

Moving on, the EV lifestyle also means that the owner/driver saves money in the long-run. Due to tax breaks, cheap­er per mile energy consumption, less maintenance costs, and the possibili­ty to sell extra electricity back into the city’s grid would mean more disposable income and extra savings at hand.

Besides money, one would also save time otherwise spent in taking detours to gas-stations and standing in lines. An over-night charge at home would mean one can move towards their des­tination more promptly. However, if one chooses to instead charge their cars at commercial charging centres, they’d still have to wait about 40 min­utes (given today’s technology) for the batteries to fill up. This means, the 40 minutes waiting time would require some distraction/productivity.

EVs would allow for more time and money. How would the availability of these change how we decide to spend moments of our lives? Could extra money and time translate into more hobbies, or would it simply mean more chances to work? Would we use the extra money and time on ourselves, or would we spend them to social­ize? Would we use them to enhance our lives in our locations or would we use them to escape from what is, in the most abstract sense, home?

To conclude, there are several hypoth­eses on how EVs would change our so­cial lives and society at large. It is inter­esting to observe how something that is strictly and precisely a change of tech­nology ends up impacting not only the environment but the society at large. We live in an interconnected world and such ripple effects offer concrete confir­mation of this very fact.

Muhammad Ahsan Kureshi

The writer is a Doctoral Researcher in Sociology at Tampere University, Finland. He tweets @desisalmiakki and can be reached at ahsan.qureshi@tuni.fi