Immediate prospects for the electric car
June 26, 2008 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Two takes on the immediate future of the electric car: we are either "Going Nowhere Fast" (if you ask a petrolhead from Top Gear magazine) or we are witnessing "The End of the Petrolhead" (if you ask The Economist). A bestiary of current and planned models includes TeslaMotors (now in production), Fisker Automotive (who are being sued by Teslamotors), the GM Volt (due 2010), The Lighting Car Company, the plug in Prius, the GWiz (now slightly less squishy apparently), the Corbin Sparrow, a few (vapory?) models from Zap! and the wondrous Sinclair C5.
posted by rongorongo (67 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
There is no need to question whether or not Zap! is pedaling a bunch of vaporware or not. The common consensus is that's nothing but a stock scam by the major shareholders.

My father hangs out on some EV mailing lists and the feeling that Zap! has done more to hurt electric cars than most everyone else.
posted by sideshow at 8:52 AM on June 26, 2008


Oh good, this again. Thread ground rules:

1) Don't let the ideal be the enemy of the improvement. Sure, it would be great if we all had carbon-free pony transport and Jesus and Satan could be best friends. In the meantime, how about we just slow down the destruction a little?

2) No solution has to blow away all possible problems. That is, it's OK if electric cars don't solve the winter heating problem. It's OK if electric cars can't power airplanes. Electric cars probably won't do much about landfills, but that's fine. If anything, a diverse set of energy solutions would be better than an(other) energy monoculture.

3) Regardless of how ignorant you are of science (i.e. you are a climate denier, you believe the Earth contains an infinite amount of oil, etc), it's still a good thing to have options.
posted by DU at 8:59 AM on June 26, 2008 [14 favorites]


Oh wow there are so many these days. I have yet to find a comprehensive list but keep coming across new models all the time, in various degrees of development. Here are some:

Solo Duo
Clever
Lumeno Smerno
Hybrid Technologies
Triac
AFS Trinity
I MIeV
posted by stbalbach at 9:02 AM on June 26, 2008


Well, thanks for setting the ground rules there, DU, I'm sure everyone will comply.
posted by beagle at 9:03 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've been shopping for an electric car...bottom line.. Unless you want an enclosed golf cart that doesn't go more than 35 mpg with a 30 mile range, they aren't here yet..

Until they can produce a car that can be highway legal, have a range of at least 100 miles, and are affordable, electric cars are not the answer to our problems.
posted by HuronBob at 9:04 AM on June 26, 2008


I'm sure everyone will comply.

If only a few do, the naysaying noise will be reduced. For the rest, there's a smack to the head.

Unless you want an enclosed golf cart that doesn't go more than 35 mpg with a 30 mile range, they aren't here yet

*smack* You've heard of city driving, right?
posted by DU at 9:07 AM on June 26, 2008


Unless you want an enclosed golf cart that doesn't go more than 35 mpg with a 30 mile range, they aren't here yet

Another smack for you, but also one for me: Check the links.
posted by DU at 9:13 AM on June 26, 2008


Wow, I've never looked into the Volt before. It looks like they've done it exactly right. On-board (ethanol-enabled!) generator, reasonable price and everything. Surprising enough even if it weren't from GM.
posted by DU at 9:21 AM on June 26, 2008


Costs a fortune, but that 220-mile driving range on the Tesla is impressive. For city dwellers, let me point out that a car like the Volt is much more doable than a plug-in like Tesla (or any of the other plug-ins), because there is no guarantee that you will get a parking space next to your house so that you can plug in. In the future, I suppose there may be little pay chargers in certain locations, maybe hooked up to parking meters so that you can have all your cash removed at once, conveniently, but in the meantime, I think that the Volt is a really excellent idea. I am astonished that GM is actually setting a date for launch. Also, 2-mode hybrid Vue looks like the kind of thing that could bring buyers back into GM showrooms.

BUT HOW IS ANY OF THIS SHIT GOING TO BRING BACK THE CHESAPEAKE BAY BLUE CRAB ????111!?11!!!/?ü?
posted by Mister_A at 9:22 AM on June 26, 2008


@DU: Wow, I've never looked into the Volt before. It looks like they've done it exactly right

The only problem is, they haven't done it yet. From this recent Atlantic mag story [emphasis added]:
Only recently has the advent of lithium-ion batteries brought a full-range electric car into the realm of the practical. Even so, the battery for the Volt doesn’t yet exist, at least not at a mass-market price, and building it poses formidable challenges. Loading enough energy into a sufficiently small, lightweight package is hard (the battery isn’t much good unless it fits in the car); keeping it cool lest it burst into flames is harder; making it durable enough to last 10 years on bumpy roads is harder yet; manufacturing it in high volumes and at mass-market prices may be hardest of all.

And: When I called Menahem Anderman, a prominent battery consultant in California, he said the lithium-ion battery will be expensive—far too expensive to make sense as a business proposition as long as gas is $3 or $4 a gallon. (“At $10 a gallon we can have a different discussion.”) Its life is unproven, and unprovable in the short time GM has allotted. To deliver tens of thousands of vehicles in 2010, Anderman said, “they should have had hundreds of them already driving around for two or three years. Hundreds. Not everybody can say it publicly, but everybody in the high-volume industry is saying, ‘What are they thinking about?’” An executive with a GM competitor, after making some of the same points, offered forthrightness in exchange for anonymity: “They’re making a huge mistake.”

And: My own feeling, just a reporter’s guess, is that battery glitches have reduced the odds of GM’s having the Volt in showrooms by late 2010, but advances in the underlying technology have increased the odds of its producing the Volt early in the decade. In other words, delay on the order of months is looking more likely, but delay on the order of years is looking less likely. I’d also guess that the car’s sticker price will be higher than GM initially hoped, maybe north of $35,000.
posted by beagle at 9:40 AM on June 26, 2008


Someone should really introduce America to this amazing technology called “diesel”.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on June 26, 2008


DU writes "Surprising enough even if it weren't from GM."

Not all that surprising, the list of automotive firsts from GM is impressive. It's the follow through that has been spotty and the fact that their key market has historically been reluctant to accept change until it was forced on them. Timing. Timing is GMs weak point.
posted by Mitheral at 9:47 AM on June 26, 2008


According to the Economist article GM collaborating with A123 Systems to produce a battery with an iron phosphate cathode - which has less of a tendency to overheat than other types - providing that they get their "precisely engineered nanoparticles" right.
posted by rongorongo at 9:53 AM on June 26, 2008


...the battery for the Volt doesn’t yet exist...

With an on-board generator, The Ultimate Battery doesn't need to exist. As long as it can store more than is lost by converting from gas/ethanol to electricity, it's a win.

...the car’s sticker price will be higher than GM initially hoped, maybe north of $35,000

From the FAQ at the link: Goal is to be less than $30,000, but first versions might be closer to $40,000.

Not to mention the fact that, at today's gas prices, you can recoup a lot of the difference pretty quickly. Right now I'm spending in the neighborhood of $200/mo on gas (I calculate--I haven't had the courage to really check it). If I could cut that by 75%, I could "earn" that $10k in 5 and a half years.
posted by DU at 9:53 AM on June 26, 2008


I wouldn't hold my breath on the Corbin Sparrow. Corbin has been in all kinds of hot water about this, including lawsuits that are hobbling its core motorcycle seat business.
posted by workerant at 9:58 AM on June 26, 2008


And of course Tesla Motors.
posted by three blind mice at 9:59 AM on June 26, 2008


I wonder how long you have to run the genny on the Volt to get it up to a decent (drivable) charge? Assuming you've drained the battery.
posted by Mister_A at 10:12 AM on June 26, 2008


Anyone managed to make an electric car that is more efficient (including electricity generation, transmission and storage losses) than an internal combustion engine yet?

After all if it is more efficient to burn the petrol in the engine to make the kinetic energy, than to burn it at a power station, transform it into electricity, transmit it several hundred miles/km, charge a battery, then convert it back it into kinetic energy at the motor, then what is even the point of using electric engines... (Answer: moving pollution from city centers, to rural areas where power stations are more often located)

This of course does not include the energy cost of the batteries themselves... A recent study -- hotly debated -- suggests that the lifetime energy cost of a Prius, including the energy costs of producing and recycling the batteries may be more than that of a dodge viper, or even a Hummer, and far more than an small engined car...
posted by nielm at 10:16 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


nielm, it is far more efficient to burn fossil fuels at a large central power plant compared with burning it in an IC engine. Transmission through power lines is highly efficient, 90-95% according to most estimates. Good question about storage, but keep in mind that cars are used pretty frequently so we only need to have good energy storage for a day or two max, in most cases.

Finally, the "study" in question was prepared by a market research group, and has been thoroughly debunked. That's not to say that there aren't serious questions around the issue of batteries, both in terms of production and de-commissioning them. I don't have the answers to those questions.
posted by Mister_A at 10:35 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


CityZenn, now legal in Quebec!
posted by anthill at 10:36 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


A private company called EEStor claims to be developing a battery-ultracapacitor hybrid power system that will eventually supplant conventional batteries. Their ultracapacitor-battery is claimed to have a specific energy of 280 watt-hours per kilogram, compared to a lithium ion battery with about 120 watt-hours and a lead-acid gel battery, with only 32 watt hours.

No commercially available prototypes available yet, but electric car maker Zenn (warning: Flash) has bought exclusive rights to use the new batteries in their cars.

Lockheed Martin has also snatched up an exclusive international license to use the new power system for military and homeland-security applications. Which makes me think there might be something to it.
posted by Kabanos at 10:38 AM on June 26, 2008


This guy here in Oregon (part of, or head of, the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association) is developing an open source DIY plan for converting a Honda Civic to an EV. looks like fun, wish I had $10K and the garage/tools/shop sense to do the same.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 10:40 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I want is user reviews of Tesla Roadster owners; maybe someone can ask Jay Leno to give me a call?
posted by Vindaloo at 10:43 AM on June 26, 2008


Anyone managed to make an electric car that is more efficient (including electricity generation, transmission and storage losses) than an internal combustion engine yet?

They're more efficient more or less by definition. A petrol-powered car has an efficiency of around 25% in pulling mechanical energy out of the total energy contained in the fuel. Electricity is generated at around 60 percent fuel efficiency and the battery chargers will work at around 90 percent efficiency. So clearly, the equivalent amount of fuel at a power station moves the car much farther than it does in the gas tank. Some calculations on this them here. Also here, under "Operating Costs". Also, keep in mind that a good fraction of the electricity can come from non-fuel sources like hydro, wind, tidal, photovoltaic.
posted by beagle at 10:44 AM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


reviews by* not of, silly me.
posted by Vindaloo at 10:44 AM on June 26, 2008


But what we really need is one of these.

Go Drexel!
posted by Mister_A at 10:44 AM on June 26, 2008


The Aptera. It looks like the future. Sexy, sexy future.

They're planning to make both an electric and a plug-in hybrid model, starting production of the electric in late 2008 and the hybrid in 2009.

Top speed for the production model will exceed 85 mph, going from 0-60 in under 10 seconds, and range of the electric is 120 miles. The hybrid doesn't have a fixed gas mileage (it depends on how far you go between charges, but the number they quote most often is 300 MPG (!) when you drive 120 miles. Minimum mileage given is 130 MPG at 250-400 miles and highway speeds.

It will only be sold in california. :<
posted by Arturus at 10:44 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


After all if it is more efficient to burn the petrol in the engine to make the kinetic energy, than to burn it at a power station, transform it into electricity, transmit it several hundred miles/km, charge a battery, then convert it back it into kinetic energy at the motor...

At a power station, fuel can be burned continuously. In a car engine, you start and stop combustion many times per second. There are also economies of scale and volume (i.e. keeping a huge boiler hot is easier per unit energy than keeping a small one hot) and weight (you can install lots of bells a whistles in a stationary plant that wouldn't fit on a mobile car).

You mention moving pollution centers, but there's also the issue decoupling transport from energy. If you make all the cars electric, then you can more easily switch your national energy basis from X-produced kW to Y-produced kW without having to replace the entire fleet.
posted by DU at 10:49 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does Apple make a car?
posted by xjudson at 10:52 AM on June 26, 2008


Someone should really introduce America to this amazing technology called “diesel”.

In my neck of the woods diesel is currently going for seventy cents more than regular unleaded. Considering that, for as long as I can remember, it was the other way around, I'd be so pissed if I had to directly rely on that fuel type right now.

I suspect that future hybrids will follow some of the ideas we are finally starting to see here; a fuel powered generator driving electric motors in the wheels. Here we could see some interesting gains as the motors are improved and require less gas to run. It's not quite the pure electric car ideal, but it's better than nothing.
posted by quin at 10:57 AM on June 26, 2008


Electric isn't the way to go. It just redirects the environmental contamination. Do you know what your batteries are made of? Do you know how their production alone hurts the environment? Do you know what happens after they no longer hold a charge?

It's a nasty business that's being pushed as savior of all things automobile simply because gas has doubled in price over the last few years. It's reactionary and those kinds of decisions rarely prove productive years later.

You want a real solution?

Diesel.

Specifically biodiesel. No more oil, it's made from plants like corn, which would mean the U.S. could become independant from foreign energy sources.

Better yet, you can use the oil from fast food restaurants (which we've got a ton of in the U.S.) with very little work required to convert it into usable biodiesel.

Even better, no need to develop new engine technology. Virtually any modern diesel engine will run on the stuff without any modifications required.
posted by ruthsarian at 11:26 AM on June 26, 2008


Specifically biodiesel. No more oil, it's made from plants like corn

Paging turtles all the way down...

AKA: what is corn made from? The carbon footprint of biodiesels isn't negligible. Also, the EROEI on biofuels is pretty pitiful.
posted by anthill at 11:30 AM on June 26, 2008


Biodiesel from algae is a possibility, but making diesel from corn is a poor choice. It's not very energy efficient, and it uses up food for fuel, increasing food prices.
posted by fings at 11:35 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The carbon footprint of biodiesels isn't negligible.

Isn't it? Even if the farm equipment runs on biodiesel?

And before anyone says it, let me FTFY: it's made from plants like cornswitchgrass, which grows anywhere and is not a food source
posted by DU at 11:35 AM on June 26, 2008


Hey man, corn is like, a plant, man, it will just like grow, y'know? And then you pick the corn and put it in the tank, man, and stick it to the man, man.
posted by Mister_A at 11:36 AM on June 26, 2008


Arturus: "The Aptera. It looks like the future. Sexy, sexy future. It will only be sold in california. :<"

That's what happens when states pass mandatory laws - innovators rush in to offer products - the rest of us lumber along in the 20th century.
posted by stbalbach at 11:37 AM on June 26, 2008


You want a real solution? Diesel.

Dude c'mon, every solution has its ups and downs. Biodiesel is hardly a perfect solution for a lot of reasons.
posted by stbalbach at 11:41 AM on June 26, 2008


"What I want is user reviews of Tesla Roadster owners; maybe someone can ask Jay Leno to give me a call?"

How's this for now?
posted by Eideteker at 12:01 PM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Screw that I just ordering this thing that will make my car run on water! If you want to get in on it let me know and I'll forward you the email I got about it.
posted by Big_B at 12:08 PM on June 26, 2008


"ordered" dang it.
posted by Big_B at 12:09 PM on June 26, 2008


DU: Even with examples like switchgrass, biofuels still competes for the same production and labor market as food production despite not being directly competitive commodities. Farmers will want to grow the crop that can bring them the most money, and this will put inflationary pressure on food costs at minimum. The fact that switchgrass is easier to grow than food crops may actually exacerbate the problem instead of circumvent it.

The extent to which it competes with food production is debatable, but, with the exception of algae, it is a concern that cannot be written off.
posted by Weebot at 12:19 PM on June 26, 2008


AARGH! Bioschmiesel!

Biodiesel is a hoax wrapped in a hoax coated in a thick layer of hoax.

Used cooking oil? Seriously? Unless we all start eating nothing but french fries 24x7 and never stop the used cooking oil is a niche market within a niche market.

Biodiesel from any grown source, switchgrass or not, requires many times more energy to produce than it delivers.

Currently, serious change to automobile energy usage makes by far the most sense in terms of a push towards battery powered cars powered by NEW nuclear reactors.
posted by Cosine at 12:22 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cosine: Liker of things wrapped in more of the same things.
posted by Mister_A at 12:23 PM on June 26, 2008


That's what happens when states pass mandatory laws

Yep. As long as you let people burn shit under the hood and blow smoke out the back, they'll do it--they'd burn coal and wood like Wacky Racers if you let them--but tell people it's drive a zero-emissions car or start riding the bus and a lot of people will begin to take electric cars (and other cleaner vehicles) very seriously. To make the best ones sell, you just need some big cities to restrict downtown traffic to zero-emission vehicles. Start with lower Manhattan and work north.
posted by pracowity at 12:23 PM on June 26, 2008


Biodiesel can be used for heavy industry and agriculture, but for day to day travel, even out to the burbs and beyond, mass transit, not individual cars*, is the answer. But what do I know, I'm ignorant of science:

3) Regardless of how ignorant you are of science (i.e. you are a climate denier, you believe the Earth contains an infinite amount of oil, etc), it's still a good thing to have options.

I deny the climate!


*Unless those cars are somehow part of distributed-engine system with, I dunno, synchronized drivetrains or somethin' - that's a possibility. Is anybody working on someting like that?
posted by eclectist at 12:25 PM on June 26, 2008


I like that used fryer oil is finding a productive use rather than ending up in a landfill, but anyone who thinks that it can provide even the tiniest fraction of our transportation fuels is deluded.
posted by drstrangelove at 12:44 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Personally I've always liked the Twike. Like most alternatives, it's still spendy, but it's a vehicle that really suits me.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:14 PM on June 26, 2008


I believe we've officially violated DU's rules, then?
posted by davejay at 1:59 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I went go-karting recently, at an indoor track.

Previously I'd done this at an indoor track advertising "european" karts, and they were fast and fun and noisy and everything you expect from a non-shifter racing kart. This time, the karts were "racing" non-shifter karts, but they were also electric. They were fast and fun and everything you'd expect from a gas-powered kart, except that they weren't nearly as noisy (although whiny) and the power came on really strong down low (as is to be expected from any electric vehicle.)

As far as I'm concerned, electric go-karts are every bit as good as a gasoline go-kart in the driving experience sense, and the cost to me was the same. So I would imagine that as other elements of the electric experience are brought up to par with gasoline vehicles, at the same price, people will just shrug and accept it as the norm as we do with hybrids now.

In the meantime, there are always people with deep pockets and quirky personalities to buy cars like the Tesla that aren't a complete replacement for everything a gas-powered equivalent does, but offers other things (like exclusivity, novelty, tremendous torque, no need to shift) that a gas-powered car cannot match for the same price.

For this reason, I genuinely believe that electric cars will ultimately trace a path from the Tesla forward to what we're mostly driving thirty years from now, and the ultimate success of it will not be a question of cost or consumer acceptance, but how the batteries are handled (ie recycling and replacement programs, efforts to reduce the environmental impact, and so on.)
posted by davejay at 2:07 PM on June 26, 2008


T'was just looking at the 'lectro car links and hybrid links only yesterday; how timely.

Glad to see the Zenn is already mentioned above. It's not quite full auto replacement, but as a city-driver, it's 1) good enough to buy (the latest one doesn't look like a golf cart), 2) on the market now, 3) affordable to middle income folks, 4) on the market now, 5) on the market now, etc. But I can't tell if it's street legal in my state. so it's ultimately not my replacement for 'the family car.'

The tango hasn't been mentioned. but just mentioning it is enough. Wouldn't drive a car that looks like it already got hit, but that's just me.

Consider that part of the adjustment we'll be going through is that things will need to get more local. Is it so bad to pine after the little Zenn/Smart/Aptera? You can keep your F150, but you'll have to pay market rates to fill it up, yes? feel free to pass the rates on to your landscaping customers. If you are choosing to drive an F150 to and from work in an office each day, well, then that is your choice. no whining.

Just went through the car buying exercise. After much research in the blue, the green, and on Edmunds, and Fueleconomy.gov. New car dealers, used car adds, craigslist+, that I couldn't afford a hybrid, and that even if I could, it might not be so green. Plug in hybrids? not on market, and the conversions are stupid expensive.

- Tested a Smart, thought of highways, and the months long wait till delivery, and passed. Not one drives by that I don't think, "I could have done that".

- Tested a little pick up truck. Oh, how I wanted one. but it's just sucky on fuel efficiency and emissions (compare your vehicle choices to others here).

- Tested not driving. for a week (car in the shop. no rental. just my bike and public transit.) The bike beat the bus for the 6 mile commute. (even when I wasn't on it. /snark) Except when it rained. But grocery shopping was tough, and my girlfriend missed me. Not ready to take that plunge just yet, thanks.

In the end, I got another car. a just-a-car. Until european style villages with all the fixings are available in the US, a car is a necessity for 90% of us USians, so I plunked down my change. Doubled my gas mileage (used to have an old jeep), but am left wanting a car/package that I think is just a little bit out of reach (see most of links above). Looking at all of the brand new big trucks on the road, one can't help but think that all of us is in for some serious belt tightening. But I've got options and think people will come around and act more grown-up; so it's cool. Maybe in 9 years we'll be able to choose an aptera in blue on the third coast.
posted by ilovemytoaster at 2:13 PM on June 26, 2008


...biofuels still competes for the same production and labor market as food production despite not being directly competitive commodities.

The number of farms and farmers does not need to remain constant. And before anyone says anything about real estate, there are biodieselable plants that can grow in water.

That said, I'm not all that keen on internal combustion. It's an inherently inefficient process made doubly so by having to be lightweight enough to be mobile.
posted by DU at 2:16 PM on June 26, 2008


Eideteker: I like Jay Leno's review of the Tesla - but even more his matching review of the 1909 Baker Electric. It only manages 25 mph at best but it goes 109 miles on a charge - and he is still able to use some of the original batteries designed by Edison. It is sometimes hard to remember that electric cars have been around since the 1830s and that electric cars held the land speed record between 1898 and 1902.
posted by rongorongo at 2:32 PM on June 26, 2008


Farmers will want to grow the crop that can bring them the most money

I hear that in Afghanistan, they're developing a car that runs on opium poppies.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 2:42 PM on June 26, 2008


And so long as we are talking about electric vehicles, here's a matthowie mefi blast from the past.

the post has zero comments. heh. it points to evworld.com/
posted by ilovemytoaster at 2:43 PM on June 26, 2008


The Zap! is vapor? I see a guy driving one of these on a regular basis. Seems perfectly function, though I do break out in giggles every time I see it.
posted by stet at 2:54 PM on June 26, 2008


the GM Volt (due 2010)

I wonder if GM will be around two years from now. Today GM shares closed at a 53 year low.

Shares of General Motors Corp hit their lowest level since 1955 and dragged down the auto sector on Thursday after Goldman Sachs cut the struggling U.S. industry's largest manufacturer to a "sell" rating and warned it would have to raise capital.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 2:56 PM on June 26, 2008


DU: The fact that there will be more farms and farmers does not mean that more farmers will be growing food crops, especially if it becomes substantially more profitable to grow crops for biofuels.

Fuzzy Monster: Meanwhile...
posted by Weebot at 3:05 PM on June 26, 2008


Wheat is worth more than opium poppies?!? Well, so much for satire. Thanks for the link, Weebot.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:24 PM on June 26, 2008


xjudson: Does Apple make a car?

Quite frankly, I think their goal is to ensure you do not ever have to use a car, that is if you live in a metropolis or something of the like. Let's face it, they offer computers that work right out of the box, music players that do the same thing (plus the music to be played online), a phone that can practically do everything so long as you are in the right cafe, etc. So if you live in the city and work in the city, then guess what, using Apple's goods, you can keep in touch with all the important people in your life, PLUS entertain yourself in the process. (Then again, this is an ASSUMPTION, so I am just laying out the 'ideal')

Otherwise, on the topic at hand, I think Queen had it right when they created their song "Bicycle." (Except when you have family, then it gets fun...) Now of course you can add a motor to it for better mileage, etc...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2008


I'll tell you what the future looks like: For local use, like getting to the grocery and (if you're lucky) work, you'll see lots of bicycles, with and without electric assistance, ultra-light bicycle-like vehicles, and small electric cars. As a result you can expect lower speed limits and streets with limited car access in suburban areas. Lots of people will still own what we currently think of as "normal cars," but it'll be expensive and no longer virtually universal. You won't be shocked if a family owns a car, but neither will you be shocked if they don't. But that's okay, because infrastructure improvements will make life without a car a lot easier than it is now. Electric buses and trains will make a big comeback. A hundred years ago it was common for suburban areas to have rail service to downtown; expect to see it happen again. You could drive your car to work but it'll be far easier and cheaper to ride your electric bike a few miles to the local train station for the ride downtown. Long distance travel will generally be by comfortable train and people will learn that spending the equivalent of two or three days in a small but nice hotel with an ever-changing view, satellite TV, and good internet access to get across the country isn't so bad at all. Frankly, it sounds pretty damn good to me right now. Houses will have solar panels, solar water heaters, and small wind turbines. You may have a big vat of bio-engineered algae in the back yard to make fuel. The four-day work-week, put into place to save energy, will seem like a brilliant idea and we'll wonder why we ever thought a two day weekend was enough.

Thinking about the future when times are rough and, by all appearances getting worse, can be depressing. We may well mess it all up. But we might grow up a little bit as a society, slow down, and decide that a slightly less frantic pace feels a bit like slipping on an comfortable old pair of jeans.

Now where's my Mai Tai?
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:41 PM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Future
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on June 26, 2008


Eideteker , thanks for that link, it was awesome.
Equally awesome is that video that Artw just linked to.
posted by Vindaloo at 7:01 PM on June 26, 2008


I'm not sure why aren't working some kind of induction recharging or wire connection (ALA electric buses) freeway lane for electric cars. It would solve battery, cost and range problems at the cost of trying to figure out how to meter energy use and debit individuals for their share. If they could figure out a way to throttle the energy transfer they could probably just calculate billing based on miles driven in the energy lane.

Diesel sipping VW Polo gets 62MPG, costs under $20K.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:57 PM on June 26, 2008


Wrightspeed X1 based on the ATOM.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:02 PM on June 26, 2008


My Traction Engine gets 20 miles per cubit of coal, and I can just run over the cars in front of me.
posted by drezdn at 6:22 AM on June 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


re: volt - "it doesn't really matter if the Volt itself is the car that pushes electric drivetrains to the mainstream. The competition -- Toyota, BMW, Nissan, Tesla -- has taken notice. I'm not necessarily betting on the Volt to win, but I am willing to bet that my next car will be electric"
posted by kliuless at 2:44 AM on June 28, 2008


I think Queen had it right when they created their song "Bicycle."

The future is a lot of naked women riding around in circles?
posted by Grangousier at 3:26 AM on June 28, 2008


« Older Two Current correspondents are the first American ...  |  Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (that's... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments