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Discussion in 'Electric Vehicles' started by TEG, Sep 14, 2007.
HybridCars.com - Silicon Valley versus Detroit
He must have taken elocution lessons from Alan Greenspan:
I really don't understand the interview, but it seems like he's asking Silicon Vally to find some alternative way of allocating automotive energy resources efficiently. That goal is noble, but somehow I don't see how Silicon Vally would improve on markets, which are generally highly efficient at allocating resources (given desirable groundrules). Ingenious solutions often find widespread adoption only when their implementation aligns with the self-interest of their users. I think Tesla Motors, by producing an energy efficient, fast, reliable, bitchin' car, will do more to get people to re-evaluate their energy strategy than any ten high-falutin proposals.
Why stop with the LAN and WAN when you can have the RAN ("Road Area Network"). Enhance employee productivity by having them collaborate while they drive. Tap into the Google-bus WIFI and and update your blog during your commute. The un-networked commuters are the untapped resource of the next decade. Productivity (and accidents) will soar as your workers stay productive while they drive to and from the office. Oh sorry, never mind, just getting a little carried away
But wait there is more! Why have the information superhighway just be metaphoric? The fully networked cars of tomorrow can literally join that highway as they enter the onramp to the future! Rather than fuel up you simply download all the data you need and packetize your forward motion. Using advanced store and forward technology your vehicle is optimally routed to the destination with a quality of service never before seen in the transportation industry. Oh sorry, what was I thinking ?
Wait! I think I have it! Stop thinking of your vehicle in the traditional sense. The worker of tomorrow will get up, prepare for the day, enter their vehicle and never leave the driveway! Fuel savings will be enormous as workers find their car replaced by the "mobile virtual work environment". Through advanced networking and data visualization technologies, workers will have a virtual commute experience complete with traffic and a simulated arrival at the office. The virtual car cave environment will present a realistic, realtime shared meeting place that faithfully simulates the office environment. Collaboration will happen in a tradition manner with technology replacing the need for actual physical relocation and associated consumption of precious natural resources. OK... Now maybe I have it?
There's some pretty amazing doubletalk in it.
It sounds to me like he wants cars to drive themselves. He wants your car to be communicating wirelessly with all the cars around it, and with systems all over the city so it knows what traffic conditions are like, which routes are open, which ones are closed or suffering slowdowns, etc. That way your car can coordinate with nearby vehicles, avoid accidents, and get you from point A to point B more efficiently.
Brent, a few days ago you asked if gasoline, or gasoline-powered cars, would ever be made illegal. Maybe that was the wrong question. Better ask. . . Will manual driving be made illegal? Or will we all be forced into our generic commuta-pods, where we punch in a destination and then work on our laptop computers while the car takes us there?
I was also put off by this bit in the original article. . .
A 6,831 laptop-like lithium celled roadster with a four-second zero-to-sixty time is a noble quest, but it also screams lack of restraint. At the end of the day, power performance without limit whether you need it or not does not get us closer to sustainable transportation.
That is wrong in so many ways. This guy clearly comes from the "cars are a necessary evil" camp. You shouldn't drive, you should walk or ride a bike or use public transportation, but if you absolutely must drive here's something "sustainable" that will get you from point A to point B.
People love their cars. Americans, especially, love their cars. If somebody asks you how your love life is going and you tell them it's "sustainable", they'll probably feel pretty sorry for you.
So. . . I'm all for lack of restraint. I don't buy into a future of scarce energy and lowered expectations. I think the best is yet to come.
Well, you do realize that unless there is some extreme population control in our near future, that's exactly what our future will be. The world wants to live as we do, but I doubt that's sustainable. I can kind of see where he's coming from.
According to the UN, world population is expected to peak around 9 billion people, around the year 2050, and then begin gradually declining. So it's kind of a good news and bad news forecast. The good news is that there's some kind of end in sight to population growth. The bad news is that 9 billion is a staggering number of people, and it's unclear how the world will be able to sustain them even for a limited time.
Why is the world population going to level off? What's going to keep it from growing indefinitely, until we all starve? The thing that's going to save us is industrialization. In the developed countries, like the USA, Japan and most of Europe, birth rates are the lowest. As you say, "the world wants to live as we do", and that includes having fewer kids.
For most of world history, most people have lived and worked on small farms. Pre-industrial farming is highly labor-intensive. If you were a farmer, you wanted to have as many kids as possible -- they could begin doing chores after only a few years, and your own kids were the cheapest farm labor you were ever going to find. The economics were all in favor of having kids.
As you go into an industrialized setting, suddenly you find children -- in most cases -- aren't paying their way. They're just an economic burden for upwards of 20 years. This is reflected in the demographics of Europe, Japan, and even China as we look ahead. The sooner the rest of the world industrializes and comes to "live as we do", the sooner the population bomb will be defused.
"...it seems like he's asking Silicon Valley to find some alternative way of allocating automotive energy resources efficiently"
"It sounds to me like he wants cars to drive themselves"
I think he's scared.
I'm reading the terrific EV1 book, "The Car That Could"* ** On page 105 John Dabels (described as GM’s main marketing man) says EVs are more like computers than cars.# (This is probably one of many things written in this book that Martin cued in on.)
I think that Detroit has seen that with EVs and the Tesla as a good example, they are in a dangerous place with regard to their monopoly on car building. He is trying to obfuscate Tesla's importance because they just wish they would go away.
*This book is absolutely required reading for the Tesla fan. I'm only on the 13th chapter and every other page is a juicy bit of knowledge about designing and making EVs and every decision that Martin and JB must have made. I really believe that this book would have been an influence on Martin along with the Fetish/Lith T Zero.
# From the book (describing around 1991):
“Think of it, Dabels would say, warming to his favorite theme. EVs, like computers, were a lot of electronics in lightweight cases. No heavy steel; no need for Rust Belt factories. Their parts could be assembled anywhere in the country. Instead of a central production plant, there could be regional outposts, responding that much faster to local market fluctuations and putting into practice “just in time” philosophy of manufacturing – parts arriving as needed, with no inventory pileup. Given how quickly electronics evolved, this approach would be more than convenient; it would be crucial to a producer’s survival. Let Baker keep thinking Impact could be made the old way, Dabels said, and that a huge steady market would appear because GM had made it; the future would come soon enough.”
**By the way, I got m copy for 7 bucks off Ebay.
Here we are at 6+billion and already depleting resources. 9 billion will be a disaster. The U.S. at 300 million uses something like 25% of the worlds energy. The numbers don't look good for the rest of the world getting to our level of industrialization. We did it with cheap energy in the form of oil, they probably won't have that luxury.
China seems to be in a mad dash to be the new USA in terms of industrialization and introduction of consumerism to everyone. With such a large population it is putting a drain on all sorts of natural resources (from cement, copper, oil, etc.)
Some things really need to change. Electric cars would be a contribution but we need so many more different approaches.
That would appear to be true, however, I have to insert a couple of caveats.
When I was growing up in the 1970s there was a great outcry about overpopulation. There was a lot of hand-wringing and books written, and talk of how desperately overcrowded our world had become -- bulging at the seams, straining our resources and destroying the environment with a whopping 3 billion people. Some predicted that early in the 21st Century we'd hit 6 billion. What a disaster! That was the doomsday scenario.
Well. . . We hit six billion, and it wasn't doomsday. Not yet. Where the limit will be, I don't know. One thing that encourages me is that we do, in fact, waste so much today. If we cut out the waste that'll go a long way toward getting us through the coming crunch.
For example, consider all the meat we consume in the USA! For every calorie of meat you eat, something like 10 calories of crops went into producing it. We could drastically cut our consumption of meat in this country, and not only would it free up a lot of farmland (for biofuels or producing more food to export), but we'd also end up healthier.
As for cheap energy. . . If Dr. Bussard's fusion reactor works, we'll have all the cheap energy we can use. And if it doesn't work, then I'm still pretty confident that solar, geothermal, biofuels and nuclear fission can scale up enough to get us by.
Various things people have eaten before have been running out.
Fishing fleets are going to the far reaches of the oceans to find remaining places that haven't already been wiped out.
I read an article about people in Texas rounding up turtles from the roadside to be shipped to China for use as food.
Some of the things they feared back in the 70s are coming true.
The oceans are really the worst. I personally am far more worried about the oceans than I am about CO2 in the atmosphere.
The way we catch wild fish at sea, in nets, is analogous to wiping out the buffalo herds with commercial hunting, or wiping out waterfowl with commercial hunting using "punt guns". We don't do those kinds of things on land anymore. We do it in the oceans because nobody has ever invented agriculture in the ocean.
Jacques Cousteau saw all this. He was a tireless advocate of aquaculture, of learning to cultivate food in the sea instead of going out and decimating the wild fish populations. Unfortunately, after he died it seems his cause was forgotten. Nobody else has picked up the idea and championed it the way he did.
Well one could argue that 6 billion has been a disaster and that we are just starting to feel the effects. Fishing stocks are being depleted at an ever increasing rate, extinctions are increasing, waste management is more difficult in many places, safe drinking water is unavailable to many, and resources are being stretched thin. A small example that hit home for me, our battery supplier at work recently sent us a letter saying that battery prices would be increasing 12% and that from now on we would be charged at least $10 per battery if we didn't have the same size core to exchange. The reason given was that China was cutting way back on it's lead exports because they need the material for their own growth. This may be just the tip of the iceberg. All the free energy in the world won't help if there isn't enough material available to make things with.
It just seems to me that population needs to be controlled now, or it will be later in a less pleasant manner. I'm also less convinced that there will be a miracle energy solution in our near future. Of course I have been spending a lot of time at PeakOil.com lately
It could help a lot. If you have enough energy, then it becomes practical to recycle and reprocess more materials. It could even become possible to "mine" old landfills for materials. With cheap energy you could desalinate seawater on a large scale, which would ease water shortages in many parts of the world. You could even extract valuable substances from seawater, which today is not economical.
Also, it could make space travel more economical, which could finally enable asteroid mining. The metal resources in asteroids are mind-boggling.
I'm trying to maintain a healthy skepticism. However. . . Dr. Bussard isn't just some random physicist, his career is legendary. If he says he has experimental data in hand showing that it should work, that's hard to discount. At any rate, we should know within about 6-9 months. The Navy has funded a couple of new test reactors, and they should be spitting out more data by then. The rumor mill says if these experiments are a success, they could be followed by a "Manhattan Project" style effort to build a full-scale, power-generating, demonstration reactor.
For perspective, it's helpful to remember that manned flight was once a technological wonder. So was radio, and later television. Then there was the whole computer revolution. I don't think all the technological wonders are behind us.
Yeah - I had been thinking about that. Yesterday's trash is tomorrow's treasure. We used to throw out things that had lots of raw materials that didn't seem to be worth much then.
I notice the price of copper wire, and copper plumbing pipe at the home supply stores has been skyrocketing the last couple of years.