Monday, October 29, 2007

e2, episodes 2 and 3

I took some time to view the second and third episodes of e2 over the past few days using their website. (thank you, sponsors and series producers)

Episode 2 is a very inspirational episode that addresses the work done in Bangladesh on the part of one man to pioneer microloans, create a bank to write microloans, develop and deploy low cost solar panels to provide electricity for lights, and a technology company to create jobs and technologies to improve the lives of Bangladesh's people.

Episode 3 is devoted to the discussion of vehicle technologies. It covers the current trends in rethinking vehicle propulsion systems, and asks some of the biggest question around automobiles: How to reduce the dependence on oil without abandoning personal vehicles and to a lesser extent, how to make a change to reduce the dependence on autos. Some sobering statistics: The first model T got 25 mpg, current average fuel economy nearly 100 years later is 21 mpg. There are 850 million vehicles in use in the world. At the turn of the last century, electric vehicles existed, before ICE vehicles.

The episode does not shirk its duty, and points out some reasons why the economic and regulatory situation of the US auto industry disincents these companies from really innovating with lighter vehicles and new propulsion technologies.

I was having a conversation with friends tonight, and was pointing out that it is possible for a company like Tesla or Phoenix to produce vehicles right now to sell to customers, granted at rather high costs and in limited quantities, yet the Chevrolet Volt will be lucky to be in production by 2010. And other plug-in hybrid/genset vehicles will in theory be entering the market within the next 12 months (eg: Aptera). GM's statement is that the battery technology they need for the Volt isn't ready yet, and the vehicle can't be produced for 2 years after the battery technology they need can be manufactured (and no manufacturing facility exists or is under construction yet). I find that hard to believe, and maybe I'm grossly misunderstanding the scales and costs of scale of comparing a product like the Volt to the other electric and electric/hybrid offerings that are entering the market. Something still doesn't seem right.