Sunday, February 07, 2010

It's Electric

I'm sure I've written about this before, but not with such interest as I have today. Electric vehicles seem to finally be gaining some traction. It may just be that since I started reading Wired again I'm a little more aware of it, but even in other media streams the electric car is everywhere.

Of course to try and look good the government has to meddle in all sorts of ways. Tax breaks and grants are one thing. Promising to have a certain percentage of green vehicles by a certain date is another, somewhat questionable, way. The thing is, no legislation was required to phase out the horse and buggy.

Early adopters got stares and heaps of negative input. But pretty soon internal combustion started looking viable and more and more investors started getting on board. It seems like the EV is right at that point. There's an ever growing segment of tinkerers out there, hacking away at designs and modifications. But there's also an increasing number of options for people who want to get on board with an off-the-shelf vehicle.

We're still at the stage where if you buy one you're labeled a bit, but not in such a laughing way as a few years ago. It is a little odd to buy a vehicle that even with breaks and subsidies costs more that what you'll save using it. And you'll basically be beta testing a bunch of new systems. And even with all the different options out there you're still pretty much guaranteed to be in an urban subset of somewhat wealthy people that just drive a few miles to work and stop off at Fourbucks.

For guys like me it's a bit of a different story. I'm interested, but not until somebody comes out with an electric three quarter ton van with a 5000 pound towing capacity, a 400 mile range and a price tag that won't break the bank. The days are numbered for my Chevy V-8 though with a lot of heavy hitters starting to get into things like battery and motor design.

One cool thing to think about is the ultimate source of the "killer app" that tips the EV industry over the edge. MP3 players were just geek toys until Apple came out with the iPod, now they're the pinnacle. It's fun to wonder what scrappy start-up will finally crack the battery dilemma or solve the charging issue and so on. (Not that my hopes are up too high but I'd be perfectly all right with driving an Apple truck. Service vans are already white and chrome. Can you imagine the sex appeal?!)

At any rate, time is compressing. As an avid reader of Popular Mechanics and Popular Science when I was a kid I'd read these articles about coming technologies and wonder what it would be like in twenty years when they finally got developed and caught on (or not). Now it seems like the number of issues between futuristic idea and product advertisement wouldn't supply bathroom reading for a week.

Anyway, I'm sitting back to ponder it all and dream of a not-too-distant day when I'll wave at you as I go humming by.

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