Thursday, 29 July 2010

How long has this stuff been about....?

Technology has history. All the devices we use in our day to day lives have roots which go back centuries; without certain developments in previous eras, the level of technology we enjoy today could not exist. Most technology, from a historical standpoint, has not needed state subsidy to be embraced by the public.

The reasoning behind today's ranting little mini-polemic is brought on by the news that the UK Government plans to subsidise buyers of 'green' electric cars. Hang on a minute. How can they do that if they're broke?

Nevertheless, if a technology for use by the individual is viable, then it will be embraced. Surely either the product will be purchased or not if it is of merchantable quality and price? Examples such as Mobile phones, Personal computers, Plasma screen TV's, Motor cars come most readily to mind.

Only the outsize and unwieldy, inefficient and / or inflexible require funding from the public purse to make it either partially or wholly viable. Public utilities, including Public Transport (Bus, Rail, etc.) for example, large infrastructure essentials like water, roads, sewers, all these are within the remit of Government. Where Government steps outside its essential brief is the realm of subsidy to pay people to buy a particular product. In this case, electric cars.

Electric cars are nothing new, they've been around since Edison and before. They were originally out evolved in 1908 by the more flexible and economical Model T Ford. Yet the idea of a long range, flexible electric car keeps coming back like a bad curry.

The main drawbacks with electric vehicles are and remain, range and refuelling. There's no stopping at the nearest gas station for a quick tankful as with an internal combustion engine, then pootling merrily on your way. Charging even the most high-tech batteries needs time. Even small cordless electrical appliances need around 60-90 minutes to bring them up to charge. Can you imagine sitting at a refuelling stop for three or four hours with a bunch of kids whining "Are we there yet?" from the back seat. Then you have to devise a relatively foolproof way of ensuring that impatient Mr or Ms Average can safely charge their vehicles, not forgetting that in our busy lives we easily tend to forget things like putting gas in the tank and not pay attention to the fuel gauge. "Honey, did you put the car on charge?" is just one more thing to forget, and running out of electricity on a longish mornings commute would be all too easy to do. So far, Electric cars have yet to jump this important hurdle.

Until the charging and range issues are resolved I have a distinct feeling that there may be a future for Electric Cars, but in it looms a tow truck. Subsidy or no.


The Filthy Engineer said...

And the suggested real range of an electric car is only about 60 miles. It would also be well to bear in mind that the life of the batteries is only about 5 years. Cost of replacement has been put at £8,000.

Bill Sticker said...

Not such a 'bargain' after all, eh?

Related Posts with Thumbnails