While at the L.A. Auto Show last week, I had a chance to talk with Nick Zielinski, GMs director of Vehicle Technology Integration, and JB Straubel, the CTO of Tesla Motors. While conversing with each of these extremely well informed folks, I brought up supercapacitors.
Both of these guys are heavily reliant on battery technology and both of them are putting varying amounts of faith in Lithium Ion batteries. Obviously, it's working well for Tesla, and we can hope it will work well for GM.
When asked about supercapacitors, both men had the same response: Supercaps represent interesting technology, but they cannot replace batteries, and using them to augment batteries is too complex.
So, what on earth are Zenn
talking about when they discuss large cars that can run for hundreds of miles at high speeds using only power stored in supercapacitors? The answer is that NO ONE KNOWS what they're talking about. It's possible that not even Eestor knows what it's talking about. Maybe it's all a lie, maybe the scientific secret is just waiting for it's day in the light.
So now, I know two things for certain, 1.If Zenn's claims turn out to be true, it will be a marvelous leap forward. 2. People in the know are very skeptical that Zenn's claims will turn out to be true.
That was me trying to fit a story into a headline and I think I did a
pretty good job. The only really important number I left out was 2007,
which is when the first 500 vehicles will be made available by Phoenix
, a California Company that specializes in all-electric
The cars are powered by Lithium Ion batteries, which are somehow (this technology is getting very advances (and confusing))
significantly different from the ones used by Tesla
electronics companies. Advanced battery technology is the keystone of
the electric car right now. They weren't good enough when the EV1 came
out, and now we have to worry that the expanded potential of Li-ion
comes with the risk of 'thermal runaway events,' that could melt a cars to the pavement. This SUV, though expensive,
can charge in 6 - 7 hours at any electrical socket, and could easily
save thousands of dollars a year in gasoline costs.
I have a really hard time figuring how these small start-ups can do
this, while large auto-companies can't manage an extra 50 miles of range,
crash test the thing, and bring it to market. In the next five years,
I bet we'll see it, but it really shouldn't have taken us this long...
I just spotted this cool graphic that National
Geographic produced a while back. It shows the chances of dying of
various different diseases (the big red line represents the chances of
dying of something (1 in 1) and the smaller circles represent your
chances of dying of particular ailments. I would like to call attention
to the 4th circle. That's right, motor vehicle accidents. It's worth
noting that pedestrian and motorcycle accidents are not included in
that (though they are also, technically, motor vehicle accidents) and
they come in at number 8 and number 10 repsectively.
So, there you have it. If you don't stop driving...it will
kill you...so stop. Video games are more fun, and much less dangerous
(people dying of video games doesn't even make the list, and, with the
Wii, you might actually get a workout!)
Well, this was my very first auto show, so I have nothing to compare it
to, but my overwhelming feeling is that it was a good one. I drooled
over the high performance cars with their sequin-clad beauties. I got
up-close with the Tesla Roadster, talked with executives from several
auto-companies, and finally met some fellow members of the online
media. I saw Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, most
importantly, I felt a lot of excitement surrounding what I think is actually
a kind of revolution of the automobile industry.
Now, I could be wrong about this, maybe every year seems revolutionary,
but there was an overwhelming theme of this conference in my eyes, and
it's one that has a lot of power. Diversity.
In Rick Wagoner's keynote, he pointed out that 100 years ago there was
no standard way to power an automobile. Electric cars, steam cars and
gasoline cars all shared the market. Now, that's not so much the case,
but it's becoming obvious that gasoline is going to have to give up its
monopoly on powering transportation.
The choices are expanding every year. Ethanol and bio-diesel are
already interfering with petroleum's hegemony, and synthetic fuels are
hot on their heals. BMW's new Hydrogen 7 lets the driver choose between
hydrogen and gasoline while Honda is, for the first time, getting ready
to release a fuel cell vehicle to the public market.
GM's Flex Fuel line lets
people fill their tanks with gas or E85, the Tesla Roadster will soon
be available as the first all-electric performance car and compressed
natural gas vehicles, that you can fill up in your own garage, are
becoming viable options as well.
I could be wrong, but I think I just mentioned around seven different
ways that cars will definitely be powered in the future. Electricity,
hydrogen combustion, hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas, ethanol,
bio-diesel, and synthetic fuels...yep, seven. And that doesn't even
include different types of powertrains and electricity storage.
People had fewer choices in 1990 than in 1910, but now, they have more.
Diversity and choice is what this world needs right now. 100% reliance
on gasoline does not work and every major auto manufacturer seems to
recognize that. I thought the LA Auto Show was going to just be pomp
and fluff, but it was a bunch of real people with good ideas who are
excited about the future of their industry. Honestly, I'm excited about
the future of their industry as well, and I hope it comes soon.