Are grassroots electric car tinkerers doing a better job than the big companies? Andrew – our 4 stroke polluting webmaster – has found an interesting viewpoint in ‘Our Electric Future’ in ‘The American – A Magazine Of Ideas’.
Author Andy Grove – former chairman and CEO of Intel Corporation, the world’s largest producer of microchips – writes that the 1980s goal of energy independence in a global economy was flawed. A more appropriate goal he believes would be energy resilience, ie strengthening our ability to adjust to changes such as the rising oil price. This we can do, Andy maintains, by relying on electricity which can be produced using many different energy sources apart from petroleum and coal – wind, hydroelectric, solar, nuclear etc.
Getting vehicles to run on electricity is a difficult technical task. Current technology allows cars to run only for about 100 miles.
Andy says the US Government could be requiring a growing percentage of new cars be built with dual-fuel capacity, running on electricity till the batteries run down then switching to a petrol engine. Unfortunately progress towards marketable electric cars is slow as the car industry is waiting for batteries to improve so electric cars can compete with petrol-fuelled cars on driving range.
Two years ago PWF reported on the release of the documentary ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ and on what ‘plug-in’ enthusiasts were saying – that the technology is here, ready for mass production and could easily dovetail into an average household.
Details of Californians Scott and Anna Cornell who had converted two of their cars to electricity themselves – a 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit and a 1968 Karmann Ghia – were given. Anna, with no technical background, had taken two years to convert the Rabbit in her ‘spare time’, while she cared for their baby daughter.
” Battery developers…have been waiting for demand from the automobile industry to develop before fully committing the resources required to do the job. The generation and transmission infrastructures have not been built up to service the potentially explosive demand from transportation. The wait has gone on for some time…
There are enterprising folks who have experimented with converting existing gasoline cars into electric cars by removing the gasoline engine and replacing it with an electric engine. Some are working to devise ways in which existing gasoline cars could be converted to dual-fuel cars…
Not all vehicles have the space and design that allow this process to happen easily. Luckily it is the most-gasoline hungry cars that do….about 80 million vehicles with a mileage of perhaps 13 to 16 miles per gallon. Converting these should be our first priority (though) the instincts of conservationists have been to improve what is already pretty good…
A shift from petroleum-based vehicles to electricity-based ones would move the locus for addressing carbon emissions from millions of individual vehicles to far fewer centralised electricity-generating plants. Controlling emissions thus becomes an industrial task, easier technologically. Estimates indicate a potential reduction of carbon emissions of around 50 per cent through such a shift…
Are government mandates and incentives really necessary to drive these processes? Can’t we rely on market forces?
“The politics of energy is warping diplomacy in certain parts of the world” – Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in a recent Senate testimony.
Automobile manufacturing, battery production, and the generation and transmission of electricity are all represented by different industries—each with its own financial aims. The absence of common interests is a major obstacle to action, requiring the coordinated commitment of several industries.
In his seminal study, the business historian Alfred Chandler found that the growth of new industries is often limited unless appropriate adjustments in their structure take place and the boundaries are redrawn to remove obstacles to growth. Chandler also recognized that the necessary changes are unlikely to happen if we have to count on the incumbent managers to bring them about.
Of course, startups and new ventures, not limited by the economic rules of established industries, can break the gridlock in time. But we don’t have the time.”
Tempted to have a go?