Enrico believes that 2010 – 2020 will be the decade of the electric car. The economics of powering mass market transportation with electrics are totally a no brainer. At current retail prices for power, 200 miles or so of driving costs about $3, versus around 10x for gasoline for the same range, and that’s if you have a rather abstemious vehicle.
I guess everyone knows by now that, if you have looked at the US car market in 1910, you would have concluded that electrics were going to dominate the market. Even then, with the primitive batteries available at the time, electrics had a big edge in reliability, and cost.
I understand there’s a kind of conspiracy theory which maintains that an assortment of malefactors in the American corporate pantheon got together to kill the electric car. Enrico has not yet evaluated these claims, but he does not dismiss them as mere fantasy.
Enrico went to a conference in San Diego last year where he got to touch, but not drive, the Tesla, the all electric sports car powered by thousands of lithium ion batteries, not very dissimilar to what you’d find in your laptop, with blinding speed and acceleration (allegedly). He actually got to drive a Phoenix Sports Utility Truck, an all electric powered by Altairnano’s lithium titanate battery. The Phoenix was a no-compromises traditional mass market vehicle, with great acceleration, great power, all the typical accoutrements. These cars are no jumped up golf carts. Enrico has put his name on the reservation list to buy a Phoenix. He’d like to buy a Tesla, too, but Elon is apparently only selling them to football players and movie stars right now.
The price of oil and advances in battery technology conspire to make electric cars on the mass market well-nigh inevitable, in Enrico’s view. Here’s a link to a listing of about 40 enterprises and ventures which are working on electric vehicles.
There is, unfortunately, a rather nasty worm lurking in this apple: our power grid is by no means capable of coping with any significant use of electric vehicles in the mass market. A car that can go 200-300 miles on a charge needs about 35 kWh. That’s a lot of power, and believe it or not, there are several competing battery technologies which are the basis of some of these ventures which will permit the car to suck down this much power in 10 to 15 minutes. Well, there’s just no way in hell our current grid can cope with millions of cars demanding that much power in a ten minute span.
Some of the ventures are bundling in approaches to recharging to side-step this problem. They typically involve some form of distributed power generation or power storage at recharging stations. This is workable, but this problem is inevitably going to slow down what would otherwise be a juggernaut.
Enrico plans to view this film soon. He is looking for ways to profit from this development. It is tricky, though, with so many entrants, to think how to bet. Gold rush strategy? Portfolio approach? Fast Followers? Capital Hill? Looky-loo with a bundle of joy? The biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever? Enrico is mixing his metaphors.