Automotive Revolution

by Handsome Matt


I’ll admit it: I hate electric cars. Underpowered, poorly styled inefficient boxes with wheels. That are too small at best, and dangerously unreliable at worst.

Yet, Shai Agassi makes me rethink my position.

Points of Contention

One of the big reasons that I don’t like electric vehicles is because pollution is still being generated. The emissions aren’t from our tail pipes, but from power plants. So the danger is that our removal of 25% of the CO2  that is attributed to automobiles, could be offset by the 25% increase in CO2 from electricity production.

Secondly, 120 miles of travel time isn’t that far, it’s roughly two hours driving at 60 mph. What happens if one is stuck in traffic or caught in between recharge stations?

Could this be used to transport goods, the same way diesel trucks are used today?

Lastly, are the vehicles comfortable? Or are they a rehash of the Honda Insight or Toyota Prius? Both of which I at 6’4″ can’t really fit into. I’ll subject myself to Cirque Du Soleil contortions, but only for a vehicle that is really fast/really expensive/made of more exotic materials than the space shuttle Endeavor. If it isn’t of direct  automotive racing lineage, then I’m not sacrificing my backbone for it.

Solutions

Number one is renewable energy sources. I like solar, wind and tidal generation, and the arguments that stop us implementing them come from big business and environmental groups. Furthermore, if we beef up our transmission and storage research we could be on to something big. Secondly, some of the strategies for reducing pollution can’t be implemented on a per person basis, but they could be implemented at a large facility. So perhaps, our emissions of CO2 could be lowered even at factories and power plants. Who knows.

Agassi is not only bold in his plan, but insightful. He hasn’t left the infrastructure to chance, but rather has built the necessary support system to make this work. Furthermore there aren’t many stretches of road without an exit, gas station or rest area that isn’t within the 120 mile radius. The existing infrastructure could be adapted and used for electric cars relatively easy. And many experts agree that every few hours individuals need to get out of the car, stretch and do something physical.

Electric motors tend to have more immediately deliverable torque then gasoline engines. So in one respect yes they could be used in that way, but I’m not sure if an electric engine could stand up to the rigors of heavy hauling.

Lastly, as Tesla has shown, electric cars can look good. Even more than that, the Loremo has shown that fuel efficient cars can be down right sexy. Sexy like an Aston Martin Vanquish, with custom stitching and door sills that say “Handsome Matt” on them. Not that I’ve priced one out or anything.

The Stance

I’m still not sold enough on electric cars to start evangelizing for them. But Agassi does a few things well. He’s thought about the infrastructure needs, makes electric cars ridiculously affordable, and uses current technologies to solve the problems.*

This now puts our solutions to automotive emissions at a count of two. Which is great. We’ve got two ready to implement solutions that we could start on tomorrow. Unfortunately, it seems that the US government is still concerned with bailing out failed businesses.

*If GM were smart, they’d pump all their resources into this or hydrogen, and secure a vertically integrated automotive empire from dealership to gas station. That’s a funny statement though, GM and smart in the same sentence.

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