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:
This is why I don't sleep well at night.
That's what it seems like this whole planet is about. Stomp on others in order to get ahead.
<table border="0" style="border:1px solid #999999; padding:10px;"><tr><td>
That was GREAT reading!!!!!!!!! Funny thing is Tesla, Phoenix and Zap are building EV's, despite all there effects to curtail the technology! I just hope they can stay in business long enough not make a difference.
I'll admit my bias right up front. I have little patience for conspiracy theories mainly because they are so easy to invent and always vague enough to be hard to disprove. Try this "Hillary Clinton has made a deal with Iran, Syria, and Jordan to end the conflict in Iraq, but she's going to wait until either after the election or spring it early if she is in danger of losing." Go ahead. Disprove it.
Why is the development of ebikes, escooters, and ecars so slow? Mostly because it's a niche market. If there were billions to be made someone would make it. That kind of money is too big too ignore.
Why isn't battery technology farther along? Because it is hard. Look at notebook computers. This is a field where there are billions to be made and every advanced country is trying to get a cut. Last year millions of lithium ion batteries were recalled because they hadn't got them quite right, and a laptop battery is a fraction the size you need for an ebike let alone an ecar.
Good movie. I didn't see any feathers, though, and George Clooney is still breathing just fine.
Full time ebiker
BionX and Wilderness Energy
"we must be the change we wish to see in the world"
I agree with davew. Some conclusions made in the article I believe to be incorrect:
No, actually this appears just to have pissed people off, especially ever since gas prices have been rising fast. This also makes GM look evil and in cooperation with the oil industry. And anyone who does more research will quickly find that GM and the other auto makers attacked the hell out of the CARB mandate, and the film and its website advertises this fact. If anything I think the film did a lot to get the EV message out, so to speak. Watching the movie certainly doesn't give the notion: "crappy idea and it failed", more like "it was a really good idea that had customer support."
I hear this argument way too often and am just plain tired of it. Its wrong. EVs require a controller, and a battery charger, both of which are expensive and the batteries really need expensive battery balancing systems which can be quite expensive too, and this is from personal experience. The argument is that if they were only mass produced than the component prices would fall so low that the whole vehicle would be less to produce. Motors and batteries are already mass produced. I agree that the price for an EV as a complete unit could fall considerably if mass produced but it has never been proved that it will be cheaper than ICE powered vehicles, and I have never seen any supporting data to back this up.
Yes, okay why don't we just blame the battery companies. Those evil conspirators! Those jerks have managed to make some of the most high energy and affordable consumer batteries ever in the last decade, but its just not good enough! My cell phone still makes a bulge in my pocket! And meanwhile, I payed half the price for NiMH AAs that have double the capacity as they did a few years ago for my digital camera. But it can ONLY take a few hundred pictures. And they are so backward, sadly they managed to make a non-spillable form of the lead-acid battery that has about 3 times the power capability and can be used in any position while not leaking or expelling explosive gas during charge for my electric motorcycle that is now streamlined and mass produced that they have made UPS systems much safer, and more practical cheaply. I don't have to add water to my motorcycle battery and it provides more cranking amps in a smaller size, but it should be smaller! And my damn watch that is 3 yrs old just keeps going with the original battery, but the light is getting dim! It should last for 100000 yrs!
Avatar taken from http://www.electricmotorbike.org/
My KZ750 Project: here
[url=/forum-topic/motorcycles-and-large-scooters/587-my-kz750-electric-motorcycle-project]KZ750 Motorcycle Conversion[/url]
[url=/forum-topic/motorcycles-and-large-scooters/588-fixing-my-chinese-scooter]900 watt scooter[/url]
Pic from http://www.electri