MIT’s Technology Review has a recent post claiming that electric cars will not become common before 2050 because petroleum products have a higher energy density and are cheaper than batteries. I think they are wrong and here’s why.
They are undervaluing what can be developed and what the public will accept as a reasonable conveyance. Progress will be easy once the public realizes a car is for transportation and not for impressing your friends and enemies that your car is bigger than their car. That change in attitude will happen when the price of gas gets really expensive. We all hate the higher gas prices but higher prices are inevitable and what are we going to be driving when gas hits $10 per gallon or even $100 per gallon? Don’t laugh in the long run when cheap oil runs low and that long run may be as little as 20 years away the price will go up, it is inevitable. A person currently 20 years old with a life expectancy of 60 more years will surely see gas prices rocket. When most people believe that, “my car is better than your car because it goes farther on less energy“, the gas guzzler problem will solve itself.
With most gas powered cars you have a maximum cruise range of about 500 kilometers before requiring an inconvenient trip to the gas station. Almost all trips that cars make are short local ones and yet you have to go somewhere inconvenient every week or so to get gas. However, if you had an automatic plug in device on your electric car, as I designed and is shown below under the front left tire, you would never go the the “gas” station. When you park your car on the pallet an arm raises up under your car and automatically plugs into your cars electric recharging socket. You would save the inconvenience, time and mileage of having to drive to some station to get your fuel. Your fill-up stations would be your usual parking places, at home, at work and at your grocery store. When these electric cars become available, even grocery stores will start having free battery top up parking spots to attract customers to their stores.
For cross-country trips of over 100 kilometers special strap-on batteries could be used if the cars were designed to take them. These could be designed to attach almost automatically to the underside of a car or the back. An easy alternative would be using a big battery on a small, dedicated to the task, trailer. These trailers would not be owned by the user but rented for the long trip and swaped-out along the route where battery stations with freshly charged batteries were available. It would be like stopping at a gas station every couple of hours when on a long trip.
With the improvements presented here, a nearly all electric transportation economy could be in place in some special places like California within 10 years. The average age for cars in the United States is currently 9.4 years. With a motivated public able to purchase an effective automatically recharged electric car soon, in 10 years there would be a huge change in what is being driven and how much gas was being consumed.
The automatic battery charger is the key to the coming all electric world economy.
“You can’t cure stupid!” especially Detroit-stupid.
( update 2009-03-18 ) Well perhaps there is some slight hope for Detroit executives. It has been reported in Earth Magazine that they are doing a photo op carpool drive to Washington this time but it they had any sense at all they would arrive in a Chevrolet Volt. I will be interested to see how this plays out over the next few days. I would like to see them arrive in an Aptera. This is an opportunity for Aptera to drive to Washington and totally upstage the boys from Detroit. They might get some massive funding for their tiny company. Aptera founder Steve Fambro.