Hurry Up & Wait A Confederacy of Dunces(or, It's The Batteries, Stupid!)
by Remy Chevalier
November 21, 2005
When the Electric Vehicle Automobile Association (today called the Electric Drive Transportation Association) was born over a hundred years ago, there were more electric cars on the road than any other type of automobile. Upper class ladies loved the new horseless carriage, because it didn't smell of poop! Sadly, heavy batteries, long charge times and Rockefeller's cheap oil sent the EVAA into a century long hibernation.
Rumors circulated inventor Nikola Tesla successfully tested a car that ran on ambient atmospheric electricity, but his plans never materialized. The world wasn't ready for the promise of clean, cheap, unlimited energy. Tesla finished his career in a small room at the New Yorker hotel feeding pigeons. The day he died, the FBI took his papers, returning only a small portion deemed appropriate to the Yugoslavian government, which in turn built a museum to house them. Thankfully the Tesla archives in Belgrade survived allied bombings. The Yugo factory didn't.
Why would the FBI barge in and appropriate the private papers of an aging, out of favor, genius? Tesla died during WWII in 1943. One of his acquaintances was a notorious Nazi propagandist spy, George Sylvester Viereck. The US government was afraid Tesla's technology would fall into enemy hands. Once Truman dropped Einstein's and Oppenheimer's bomb over Japan, Pandora's box had cracked open. The Office of Strategic Studies merged with exiled factions of German intelligence to form the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1947 the National Security Act was signed into law, making all energy conversion research subject to classification, nuclear or otherwise! Paranoia ran rampant.
Two wonderful decades went by on planet earth as the automobile changed cultures and lifestyles. Then one morning a few science professors woke up realizing the damage those tail pipes were doing to the air we breathe. Subsequently 30 million people took to the street on Earth Day 1970... then nothing... or barely nothing... a billion automobiles powered by gasoline still cruise the streets and highways of North America, contributing over 25% of the world's greenhouse gases.
So what happened? Why, after 35 years, have we yet been able to market a better horseless carriage, one that wouldn't fowl up the air? Would we have been left better off with the stink of poop? Well, to quote Bart Simpson, the pen is mightier than a bag of flaming poop... so I decided to ask a few friends and colleagues, all leaders in the electric vehicle community, some with cushy jobs at major companies, to debate the issue in a string of private emails. All agreed to share their thoughts with me, as long as I wouldn't reveal my sources.
What you will read below are not just my words and convictions, but that of half a dozen other industry professionals fed up with the status quo. Because we all have to put bread on the table, whistle blowing isn't an option for most people. I'm lucky. I have nothing to lose. I don't derive my income from the EV industry. I'm free to speak my mind openly. All I stand to lose is access, not lose my livelihood. They on the other hand, are in no position to bite the hand that feeds them.
The major driver in battery innovation today are laptops and cell phones! While lead-acid batteries are still found under the hood of every car, our love affair with television equals our love affair with the automobile. Video graphics quickly deplete batteries, and now that we demand CNN (and porn) streaming into our mobile devices, the mad rush to develop better batteries is on.
Yet, strangely enough, we discovered that research labs and institutions licensing state of the art battery protocols also restrict their application, with a specific clause prohibiting the use of these new batteries for propulsion! As John Stewart would say on the Daily Show... Whooaatttt? What a surprise that the new companies jockeying for position controlling the development and penetration of Pocket TV communications are owned by SAIC, the CIA's largest contractor, the same people who gave us the Internet.
Last year Electrifying Times organized events in Connecticut to encourage the state to pay closer attention to better motors and better batteries, both for civilian and military applications. These talks were held at the Pequot Museum and at Yale University. This networking process is chronicled on the BMBB website. But to date, even though Connecticut has again been awarded a massive chunk of the defense budget, batteries and motors are not on the agenda, at least not the agenda the general public gets to see.
One would think it strange that the two technologies that show the most promise in reducing global warming, motors and batteries, would still not lead the debate with organizations like the Alliance to Save Energy for example. Everybody is still beating around the bush... why? What forces are at work constantly relegating motors and batteries to a footnote when in fact their efficiency and consumption are at the heart of the solution to the global warming issue? It's here that I want to quote one of the participants in our backroom chat: