24 December, 2008

Toyota Goes "Me Too!" with their planned EV.

*sigh*.  Yet another electric vehicle.  It seems a bit airheaded of me, I know.  I'm sposed to be shouting all things green from the rooftops, after all this is the green side blog... But... This is Toyota, I like Toyota...  And all they've come up with so far is the decidedly non-green Prius and now this little EV which looks like the minimum amount of design work and effort to get from gas to green.  Gone from "Toyota" to Toyawnta" in one easy step...

Two things that really really REALLY shit me are all the car manufacturers seeming to have agreed on a standard formula already and all building broadly the same EV with a different badge; And all of them, when asked about it, fishing a date out of the same hat: "Oh, when?  Errr, 2010.  Yeah, that sounds good.  Say we said 2010 when you write us up, okay?"

As I said in another article, with any kind of luck this is the tipping point over a slippery slope for the Big Iron auto manufacturers, and while I deplore a waste of billions of dollars as much as the next person, the bailout might just be a cheap price to pay for getting rid of that particular "car"tel...  Because, you do understand that despite the huge suck at the public tit, they will inevitably go "bus"t due to public reaction, as the green message sinks in.

The idea is that just as in evolution, organisms grow until they exceed the capacity of their niche to support them.  That's when you step in and star supplemental feeding, which is what the bailout is.  And then economics takes over and you realise the species is better off extinct...

Meanwhile, small manufacturers will fill the niche, and one hopes they'll do a better job at innovating and coming up with new technology.  And before 2010, thank you very much!  I'm still sure that any number of companies out there could come up with a series of hub motors/batteries/solar conversion kits to turn front-wheel drive petrol engined small cars into fuel/electric dual drives, which could spin out their useable lives by another five years and reduce their petrol consumption by half.

And don't forget all those crazed inventors spruiking and promoting their water to hydroxy gas to water mileage boosters.  Because, these technologies aren't new - my father knew people who converted their cars to use hydroxy gas, steam injection, and even charcoal fired wood-gas to run on.  No kidding - I've seen old faded b&w pix of a car with basically a sealed, wood-heated, wood-containing boiler, and the gas that it boiled out of the wood was used to run the engine...

See, we're overly used to convenience.  That particular guy back in the early 1900's had to plan his trips carefully - fill the chamber with wood, start the fire going, watch the pressure gauge and when the time was ripe, belt off to the nearest village, where (with luck) he had time to cool the chamber, remove the charred remnants, add new wood, and re-stoke for the return trip.  You don't just go impulse shopping when you have a setup like that...

But I digress.  The point was to say that this technology works.  Despite being "invented" every year by someone new, it's the same ideas going around.  The reason they fail is that it's far more convenient to just turn a key and drive away.  No-one except the dedicated person wants to have to fiddle with an electrolyser or fill a steam water vessel before each trip.  The reason the car manufacturers aren't all baying and snapping to develop these ideas isn't because they don't work but because what they already have works and is all market-ready, no additional development costs.

Look at the light bulb - for almost 200 years, we wasted 80% of the electricity that was used in lighting.  almost 100 years ago we had fluorescent tubes, 30 to 40 years ago we had the technology to make CFL bulbs.  But the light bulb manufacturers were using factory plant that had been used for decades (many many deacdes!) and didn't want to go to the bother of upgrading their plant.  Why should they?  It's only been in the last few years that any of them grudgingly made a CFL among their stock lines, and it took force majeure in the form of government regulations before they all started making them.

And in the interim, smaller specialty manufacturers made a fortune selling CFLs and now the major light bulb manufacturers have competition. That's exactly the situation the car industry is heading into now.  Good luck to them all...

There will be other ways to differentiate your EV from others.  A mass commodity market approach would work so much better than the big bucks car showrooms.  After all, people are buying these to be green yes - but the real reason is that they want a cheap form of transport, not some chrome behemoth sold from an expensive car showroom where the cost of that premises and the sales staff must be re"coupe"d.

Also - sharing taxis could be another small thing that adds up - Laurent is apparently working on a few new wrinkles for his cab sharing site, so go there, try it out, and support his effort.

So - the standard formula is Lithium ion style batteries, crap electric drives, and a cont"roller" made in China sold with a different badge on it, and I reckon by 2010, all the big manufacturers will have one at least on the market.  If Toyota want to do something for their image, they would be better off finding a new niche rather than jumping up and down yelling "me too!  me too!"

PS: I realised afterwards that I had all these inadvertent puns so I put quotes round them and slightly changed the font colour.  No reason, it just amused me when I proofed the article and I love stupid puns...


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