Why electric vehicles can go the distance
'A simple fad and a revolution are usually differentiated by the ability to shrink costs, improve efficiencies, and improve lives.'
“The internal combustion engine is here to stay, but the electric car is only a novelty – a fad. That electric vehicles have practically reached the limit of their development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.”
It probably does if you’ve been reading much of the popular media opinion on electric vehicles. Except those two sentences are actually from the early part of the last century and I swapped a few words. The paragraph should read:
“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad (President of a bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, 1903). That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced (Scientific American, 1909).”
Technology watchers will not find this surprising (Wikiquote has a great article on incorrect technology predictions) for the simple fact that all disruptive technologies begin their lives as poor alternatives to the incumbents they will replace.
For example, my first cell phone was terrible. With often-poor signal strength and a battery that would struggle to last a working day it was hardly a credible replacement for the phone on my desk. My first MP3 player was rubbish, the tablet computer I brought in 2003 was awful and the first time I tried to Skype my parents was frankly a trauma for all of us.
Where are those technologies now? As the late Douglas Adams put it:
I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:
1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
But history is also full of non-starters. Why will electric vehicles be any different? A simple fad and a revolution are usually differentiated by the ability to shrink costs, improve efficiencies, and improve lives.
Consider the process of drilling black stuff from the ground and then burning it in little metal cylinders which move up an down thousands of times a second, and then drive an electric vehicle with its super smooth power delivery and you can start to imagine how the horse had its day.
If the battery, accessibility and supporting infrastructure can improve in the way that my cell phone did then a revolution is truly on the horizon.
Image credit: internets_diary on flickr