These are some of the facts and personal opinions that have inspired my work and the vision behind itMoves. Rather than let them sip through blog posts, I thought it would be better to put them up front, as a disclaimer of sorts. Now everyone knows what to expect.
DON'T TELL ME IT'S IMPOSSIBLE
I can't think of a better way to start than quoting Dean Kamen (from this Squire interview):
Don't tell me it's impossible, tell me you can't do it. Tell me it's never been done. Because the only real laws in this world -- the only things we really know -- are the two postulates of relativity, the three laws of Newton, the four laws of thermodynamics, and Maxwell's equation -- no, scratch that, the only things we really know are Maxwell's equation, the three laws of Newton, the two postulates of relativity, and the periodic table. That's all we know that's true. All the rest are man's laws.
THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
Electrification of the car fleet is not going to come quickly. Even if all the cars sold every year in the US were EVs, it will take more than 10 years to replace the 135 million fleet at the current 11 million per year rate. This is a generational change, not something Congress can legislate and change with a vote.
WHAT WE NEED IS A BUBBLE
The internet bubble left a lot of stock portfolios shaken when it burst. While the money bubble was mostly pernicious, the technical bubble created the conditions for the widespread adoption of electronic devices today. There is no doubt that we are in fact living inside what many business plans predicted back in the '90s (broadband & WiFi, Netflix streaming, Facebook everywhere, etc).
I would argue that we also need an EV bubble, so that a few years from now there will be a surplus of infrastructure and technologies (changing stations, batteries, motors) that will allow the second wave to take hold and become the new normal.
WE ARE NOT STOPPING CHINA (or the rest of the BRICs)
This is their century. They have the money and they have the drive. We can only hope that they don't make the same mistakes the West made, and that is why we should be leading by example.
COMPETITION FOR RESOURCES (NOT JUST OIL) IS ONLY GOING TO INCREASE
Forget global warming for now, it is supply and demand. It doesn't look like we are not running out of resources yet, but we have already grown from two to four Americums (the US as a unit of energy) and we marching towards nine by 2030. Look at the energy use projections from the International Energy Agency (not a leftist entity by any means).
There is just not enough stuff (oil, alumina, steel, copper, you name it) for nine US equivalents. Prices will go up, and we'll be forced to change quick; or we can start changing now.
COMMUTING IS NOT DRIVING
I'm still a car guy and love driving, but I hate commuting. Give me an automatically driven pod, and let me use my laptop while I go to work. With the money I save (and carbon credits I earn), let me trade from my '93 track-ready Miata for a proper Ariel Atom for weekends at Willow Springs. That's driving. That's the car-as-a-horse analogy I always heard attributed to Freeman Thomas years ago.
THE MYTH OF THE OPEN ROAD IS DEAD
When I left Spain thirteen years ago, it had some of the craziest drivers in the world. Over the last decade, Spain has transformed itself into a country of drivers in auto-pilot. The reason? Cameras, radars, month long license suspensions, jail sentences... I'm sure direct withdrawal from the checking account is not too far off. Cameras bring cash and politicians love them.
FOR LOTS OF PEOPLE, TRANSIT IS NOT AN OPTION
Given the choice, I still believe that individual transportation is the preferred method for the majority of people. Transit investment is important, but it will only serve a relative minority (12% in LA), at least while cheap gas is available.
Individual transportation, however, doesn't have to be business as usual: purchasing overdeveloped and inefficient gasoline vehicles to be used once in a while. There has to be a better way.
EVs ARE (STILL) AN INFERIOR PRODUCT
They will get better, and they will get cheaper, but today's EVs are expensive, slow, and inconvenient. They will improve, and they will eventually be competitive dollar-per-dollar, but today you have to buy them for different reasons (like leaving a better planet to our kids). If you are one of the informed, concerned few, by all means get one (I will as soon as I can) but please don't believe the hype, they are not ready for the masses.
THE CURRENT CROP OF EVs ARE NOTHING BUT FASTER HORSES
Here is an old story: Henry Ford was apparently asked why he didn't ask his customers what they wanted. He famously responded if I ask my customers what they want they will tell me that all they want is a faster horse. When I see OEMs producing expensive conversions like the Mini-e*, as if energy density coming from a Li-ion battery was the same as gasoline**, all I can think is faster horse.
An electric car, with an expensive, heavy but decentralized power unit and no transmission deserves a different, more efficient packaging
- * to be fair, BMW has recognized the issue.
- ** price per Kwh jumps from around $35 if we use gasoline to somewhere between $500 and $1000 when using Li-ion batteries.
OWNING A CAR IS A STUPID ECONOMICAL DECISION
This is just a fact. From a purely rational point of view, buying an expensive, rapidly depreciating asset to be used only one hour a day is just madness. A car costs the owner $9,519 a year on average acording to the AAA. The fact that we as humans are not particularly good at making rational money decisions doesn't justify it one bit, in my opinion.
76% OF COMMUTERS DRIVE ALONE
Despite the average car having five seats, most of us (106 million) drive by ourselves. To put the number in perspective, that's almost all of the salaried employees in the US (112 milllion). This is an incredible misallocation of resources. Like Dan Sturges says, imagine if airlines decided to fly using only 20% of their capacity! How many would survive?
THE AVERAGE COMMUTER DOESN'T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT RANGE
Mean travel time to work is 25 minutes. Even in freeway heaven (Los Angeles), the average commute only lasts 29 minutes. In other words, a 40-50 miles range is more than enough for almost everybody but the most extreme commuters.
If we all had a gas pump in our garage and at work, do you think we will care about range? With an EV we do have a pump: it's called electric socket.
YOU ARE YOUR iPHONE...EMBRACE BIG BROTHER, HE IS HERE TO HELP
The amount of privacy that we have been willing to give up in exchange for the convenience of smart phones has the potential to make one way car-sharing a reality. Since drivers are permanently located, it allows for a fairer system, were everyone pays according precisely to use (or abuse); add the possibility of instant feedback and two-way communication, and The System has the potential to be a beautiful, self-balancing, intelligent network that immediately responds to the conditions on the ground, with very little top-down intervention.
CARS ARE SERIOUSLY OBESE
There is no bigger enemy of efficiency than weight, which steals energy from 1 mph (unlike aerodynamics).
The way cars have been putting on weight is nicely documented by Christopher R. Knittel from UC Davis in his 2009 study Automobiles in Steroids. WIth gasoline prices stable or falling for the majority of the last 15 years, automakers simply added more power to compensate.
By the way, do not tell me that weight equals safety, please... watch Robert Kubica's 180mph head-on crash. He was racing the following weekend, evenvthough is car weights 620 kg (1350 lb), about a third of your average SUV. Yes, I know, an F-1 car costs several million dollars, the driver uses a harness and a helmet, etc, etc; but the fact remains: yes you can mix lightness and safety, and no it doesn't violate the Laws of Physics (see first quote). The truth is auto manufacturers went for the other 600 (600 hp that is) with fervor, instead of shooting for the 600 kg safe family sedan.
CARS ARE SERIOUSLY OVERDEVELOPED
There is no doubt that cars today are absolutely engineering marvels, but I still have not been able to answer the provocatively childish question posed by Mike Simonian (founder of Mike & Maaike): why do cars have a top speed so much higher than the speed limit? Yes yes yes, I hear you marketing guys, we all want distinction and to feel superior to our peers but c'mon, are you really that fulfilled because your beige Camry can do 130mph?
ALL.YOUR.FUTURE.ARE.BELONG.TO.US, AUTOMATIC DRIVING PODS
Eventualy we will all have to give up driving in advanced urban areas. The technology is already here (see Bosch Automatic Braking), and it's only a matter of time before we give up the steering wheel, allowing a safer, more efficient way of moving around. Driving, like horse riding, will be something to be enjoyed at the right time, at the right place by the right people (the True Believers, to use Peter de Lorenzo's phrase), while Mobility will be a cheap, easy, clean and readily available utility. As it should be.