What Is Hindering The Mass Adoption Of Electric Cars?
With the apocalyptic prediction that the world could run out of fossil fuels as early as 50 years from now, we would expect the auto industry to be in top gear at research and design of an electric car. With the advancement in technology today, the design of an electric car would seem a no-brainer for most major car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and General Motors. The question that comes up is why aren’t they doing it?
Of Economies and National Pride At Stake
For us to understand why we are not zooming past each other in electric cars, we need to look at the history of inventions with specific focus on Electrical engineering. Being a trained Electrical engineer myself, I have had a keen interest on its history as it happened, not as its presented in history books.
Contrary to folklore or history books, the American Thomas Edison did not invent most of the things he is credited to have invented. Most of his ‘inventions’ were actually done by a Serbian-born Engineer by the name of Nikola Tesla who worked for Edison, Wikipedia describes Edison as ‘an American inventor and businessman‘ what we are not told by history books is that he was more of a businessman than an inventor. On the other hand Tesla invented many of the things we take for granted today including wireless communications, power generators, transmission systems and the telephone (yes, you read that right, it wasn’t invented by Alexander Bell, he merely showed it can be used)
At one time when the world was toying with the idea of distributing electricity to houses as a utility, Edison and Tesla fell out. Edison was for the idea of distributing direct current (DC) to homes while Tesla was for the idea of the use of Alternating Current (AC). The advantages of AC as a form of distribution far outweighed those of DC which suffered a lot of losses when transmitted over long distances. To demonize AC, Edison invented the electric chair and used AC on it to publicly kill animals strapped to it (again most books say the electric chair was invented by a dentist), he then went ahead and used DC on the chair and it didn’t have any effect on the animal tied to it. However with all these demos, Tesla (who was now working for George Westinghouse) carried the day because Unlike DC that could only serve customers within 2.4Km radius to the power station, AC could be stepped up to very high voltages by use of transformers, sent over thinner and cheaper wires for very long distances, and stepped down again at the destination for distribution to users.
Because of the great influence he had in Washington DC, Edison ensured that he always had his way when it came to taking credit for the work of other people and majority of the patents of things such as motion picture cameras (The kinetiscope as it was known), the phonograph and many other things. The US govt also wanted to exert its presence in the world of new inventions which were then dominated by Germans and the English. They seized the opportunity to defraud the Serbian born engineer his honor by claiming that it was an American and not a Serbian who invented all these things Edison is credited to have invented.
When Edison was a very old man and close to death, he said, in looking back, that the biggest mistake he had made was in not respecting Tesla or his work. After Edisons funeral, Tesla was hear commenting that the reason it took Edison over one thousand attempts to come up with a light bulb was due to his despise of mathematical methods and processes which would have helped him design the bulb in a shorter period. We however take pleasure these days by quoting Edison’s famous quote of “I have not failed 1000 times. I have successfully discovered 1000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.” whenever we are stuck in life.
The example above shows how businesses or businessmen with vested interests and the right connections can attempt to alter technological progress even when we all see the benefits this progress bring with it. The same thing is happening in the quest for electric cars today.
For an electric car to work, it needs a way to store electric energy and use it during its operation. The biggest problem today with electric cars is that there exists no battery efficient enough to store electric power for long trips. Many electric cars need constant recharging. But is this the truth? The truth of the matter is that there indeed exists super efficient batteries that can store substantial amounts of power to run electric cars for long periods of time without the need to recharge (Such as Thorium plasma technology batteries). However the sad part is that once again, the Edison-Tesla situation is now replaying itself but on a larger and diabolical scale as below:
- ALL patents to efficient batteries are owned by either oil companies or by OPEC governments, this effectively stops the adoption of the same for the design of electric cars that will not need fossil fuel.
- Nearly all scientists involved in the design of these efficient batteries have mysteriously died, are missing or incapacitated. See this story here that shows how 6 scientists involved in the research of high efficiency batteries all went missing and later found dead.
- Not only are the battery scientists suspiciously dead, research and development in the design of more efficient solar panels is deliberately underfunded, the solar panels we use today are just about 15% efficient, imagine what they would do if they were say 98% efficient? Obama attempted to fund alternative energy sector by loaning a company called Solyndra some economic stimulus money. The whole issue was politicized not because of Obama, but because Obama went against the wishes of oil companies to kill off alternate energy enterprises. See political intrigues story here. Also worth noting is that majority of the alternative energy companies are ailing financially due to deliberate attempts by governments to stop their commercialization of greener energy sources.
So the world is stuck with inefficient batteries and solar panels and has to therefore continue using fossil fuels to power it.
There have been attempts to design alternate systems for use by electric cars, one of the best attempts so far is the Tesla Roadster car. (read more here) In fact this car was named after Tesla to signify that this car is about the use of technology efficiently to help mankind and not just in the interest of powerful corporations. The Tesla roadster is the closest thing we have to an efficient electric car.
The Tesla car batteries are said to be about 26% efficient, I leave it to your imagination of how efficient electric cars would be if the close to 100% efficient batteries patents were in the hands of the right people. This is the reason you will not be seeing mass adoption of electric cars soon.