Rob, That may sound like the Saudis are worried, but I remember a leader of Saudi Arabia saying some years ago that they felt a "fair" price for oil is in the $80 a barrel range. Unfortunately they are not the only country controlling production and prices.
If you think about it a little bit, gas is currently around $3.50 a gallon and it is some $20,000 for a low end car. When I was a kid, gas was $0.35 a gallon and a low end car was $2,000. So the price of gas is not out of line with everything else. People get used to it being cheap and when it spikes up they wig out.
I think 40 mile cars are a problem. Yes, most people can drive to work with them, but work is not the only thing we do with our cars. I keep hearing about nano-technology boosting the capacity of batteries. If that happens we should be able to extend EV range to well oer 200 miles and I'm told be able to charge them in 15 minutes. Heck, after driving 300 miles I'm ready for lunch and they can have 45 minutes to charge them.
Again, I don't think current battery technology is up to it, but I'm told that if EVs are made part of the power grid, they can be charged at night and during the day when you aren't driving them, they can serve as supplimental power sources for the grid. Don't know if it is true, but I heard this weekend that at peak times supplimental power can go for hundreds of dollars per kWHr. I'd like to be able to tap into that! But I'm sure the power companies will middle man that to death. I'm still trying to figure out how I get compensated for "transmission" charges if I am selling power back to the electric company from PV panels. Now that electric power is deregulated it seems like I am getting charged for a lot more than ever.
I don't know if the Nissan Leaf paradigm -- that is, the pure EV -- is at a tipping point yet. In a BEV, the batteries are just too big and too expensive. The irony is that the urban dwellers (i.e., New Yorkers) who would otherwise be best-served by BEVs, are facing the biggest barreiers because they lack garages and easy access to electrical outlets.
Plug-ins, however, may be a different story. Toyota will soon introduce a plug-in vehicle that goes 13 miles on a charge before its IC engine kicks in. (Toyota engineers refer to it as a "Prius on steroids.") Because it goes only 13 miles in pure electric mode, the battery pack can be smaller and therefore less expensive. At the same time, many commuters could drive to work and back without ever using gasoline.
Who will build the infrastructure? GM broke ground on an electric motor facility last month. But you're right, this is where the supplier community should start stepping up.
One sign that we may be approaching an electric-car tipping point is the nervous moves and comments we're getting from the Mideast oil states. There have been recent moves to keep the oil flowing at a rate to bring down the cost to consumers. Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal recently said he wants to keep oil down at $70 to $80 a barrel to ward off the development of alternative fuels. Since most oil goes into vehicles, it's the electric car they're worried about. They certainly see the tipping point coming.
As energy efficiency becomes more and more a concern for makers of electronics devices, researchers are coming up with new ways to harvest energy from sound vibration, footsteps, and even electromagnetic fields in the air.
The government wants to study your brain, and DARPA wants to use similar information to give robots true autonomy beyond any artificial intelligence developed to date. Sound like science fiction? It's not.
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