Vaporware: What's Wrong With Long Distance Electric Cars?
The problem with electric cars is that they run out of power too soon to use them for long distance travel. Hybrid cars only serve to turn electric cars into gas powered cars when the electric power runs out. While that may not be a problem in other countries where distance is more limited, it is a problem in larger countries like the United States, Canada and Australia. This is rather easy to solve and create a new source of jobs and income that don't exist now.
Several years ago a few different companies introduced induction chargers for electronic devices. These devices do not pose any shock risk to people and do not require any direct contact with the batteries being charged. All they need is proximity. Unfortunately, these companies were all focusing on very small electronic devices like cell phones that could remain in purses and still be charged over night. What if this same technology was deployed on a large scale, like the size of a parking space or even a whole parking lot? This would allow any electric car to pull into one of the special parking spaces and get a charge without ever needing to connect any wires. Fueling would be totally automatic and invisible.
This brings up several interesting and related needs.
- Someone needs to build these parking spaces. This means more construction jobs everywhere cars go.
- These pads will need power, even in remote locations. This power could be gathered for free through the use of solar panels without placing any load on the power grid, or even proving additional power into the grid when there is no car charging.
- These pads will not be free unless they are funded through other sources such as retail stores that want to attract customers with a free charge for their car while they shop. This brings up the need for a whole system of billing and user tracking similar to the cell phone network.
- A significant new market would spring up to retrofit older cars with this technology as well as build new cars.
From an income and investment perspective, it would be very attractive for investors to build these charging stations in the most needed places and sit back to collect the income. This would be like vending machines that never need to be restocked. Even if a single charge for a car only paid a few cents to the station owner, that would eventually become a huge profit center due to the nearly zero cost of maintenance. The pads can be built under the pavement so vandalism would be nearly impossible and if the car id system was strong enough, theft would be very unlikely.
If this system were widely deployed, the need for oil for auto fuel would be significantly reduced along with the associated refining, distribution and management costs. Air pollution problems from automotive sources would also be reduced to nearly zero.
Since this comes back to the chicken and egg game that has seemingly prevented other technologies from breaking into the main stream market, here is a step-by-step way to get from where we are today to a totally electric car future.
- Bundle paired installations for special applications. This means selling an electric or hybrid car with the charging pad to individuals and fleets that only need limited distance transportation or a very specific route, like postal delivery.
- Package totally self-contained solar powered charging stations for direct sale to those interested in investment opportunities. This package can include installation and maintenance if desired or needed.
- Partner with local businesses to install and advertise these charging stations at their place of business. Restaurants, malls, theaters and health care centers would be good starting places. Since these charging stations would not need to place any additional power costs to the business owner, their part of joining the charging game will be total profit.
- Work with local and federal politicians to include special consideration and favorable laws with regard to the charging stations. This could include special tax breaks or zoning variances for businesses that offer these stations to customers, special credits for electric car owners, and other incentives to encourage the technology.
- In the past the oil lobbyists have been rather effective at fighting any technology or law that attempts to put a penalty on their industry while favoring another. This could be easy to overcome by getting the oil companies to join the game with promises of higher profit margins and less cost of goods than is possible with their current business model. Since resistance is expected from the big oil companies, starting with the smaller oil companies will be wise. If all of the small oil companies joined the game, they could collectively influence the larger companies.
- Get federal funding to install charging stations at every rest stop on every interstate in the nation. This would be sold with the pollution benefit as the first direct effect. Since the charging stations could also be used as an income source, that would help them become self-funding over time.
- From a security perspective, every charging station would be inactive until a valid vehicle ID is found. While this could be viewed as a violation of privacy by some, it would actually be a security benefit on many levels. The first is that it would be impossible for anyone to steal a car and get a charge once the batteries ran out. Just like a stolen credit card stops working the instant it is reported stolen, so would the stolen car trying to get a charge. This would help lower car insurance for the new electric cars and help encourage public adoption.
- From a practical cost of ownership perspective, the cost of driving would be relatively flat over many years. Unlike the cost of oil, which is a limited resource that can only cost more as less of it remains, the cost of electricity from renewable (solar, wind, etc.) power will always get cheaper as technology improves. This means the cost of owning and operating an electric car for 5 years will be significantly less than owning a similar gas-powered car.