Batteries are getting better. Here’s some news from MIT, about emerging technologies to make batteries lighter and quicker to charge.
Such innovations, if they can be made to work at industrial scales, will bring the performance of electric cars (slow to charge, limited in range) closer to that of cars that use gasoline. I’d guess that a lot of money is flowing toward research into better batteries, especially for cars. From stories like the ones above, it sounds like this is starting to pay off.
What with global warming and peak oil, some car manufacturers, notably Toyota, are intent on pursuing a new and greener power source for cars, to replace gasoline. Of course, auto manufacturers probably also intend that the world to come will have even more cars than exist on the planet today.
Here’s the thing: so far, the electric cars treated as a serious alternative in the market closely resemble the cars we’re used to, in their size, speed and comfort.
This reflects a great error or blindspot in much of the discourse about automobiles and what they must become. Cars like the Chevy Volt proclaim: business as usual! No sacrifices demanded, in speed, comfort and range! The Volt is transitional technology; but it sets an expectation: this is more or less what the car of the future will be like. As/when batteries get better, your next next car (the affordable and range-anxiety-free EV that is surely in the pipeline as we speak) will let you kick the gasoline habit and this will be mostly painless. Happy motoring!
Electric cars can be seen as a manifestation of economic continuity, not economic change. The core assumption: manufacturers will keep making cars, and you’ll keep paying for ‘em, ideally every few years. Maybe you’ll pay relatively more for your next car, but won’t it be worth it to save the planet and all?
It’s important to ask, what are the unchallenged economic assumptions about a future when the global market for cars is growing? What else has to persist, so that the automobile industry can endure? Here’s a problem that stays with us: what to do with the cars we don’t want any more?