Chuck, I definitely had your skepticism -- as well as your history of deep reporting on batteries (e.g., Electric Vehicles: How Far Have We Come in 100 Years? ) -- in mind when I was talking with the Mercedes R&D person. That's why I thought it was so significant that his perspective was that there will indeed be progress down the road, and why I reported it. It's true that he didn't provide specifics but he had a very strong feeling that more research on the chemistry front would yield improvements. I definitely didn't take it that he was repeating a company or party line, but that this was his true feeling as an engineer who's very plugged into automotive research. So, like I said, even though I didn't have much in the way of specifics to report in the article, I felt that it was important to put his view into the piece.
Having talked with EV battery makers on a regular since 1988, I have to admit to a little bit of skepticism when I hear about automakers predicting serious range boosts coming from the battery front. Going back to 2000, the United States Advanced Battery Consortium has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into research, particularly when zero emission vehicle mandates loomed on the horizon. The research always did some good, but the results have been evolutionary, not revolutionary. Boosts in specific energy have always been painstakingly slow. I would never say that batteries will remain forever stalled, but I think we will need to be patient.
The info on composites and batteries is of great interest from the materials standpoint--thanks, Alex for this heartening input from yet another car manufacturer who's researching CFRP composites, in addition to Ford, Audi and several others. Like Beth, though, I'm not impressed with the infotainment/telematics stuff.
The EE Buzz link at the bottom of this article offers a great snapshot of the Consumer Electronics show. As well as presenting the headlines, a quick click sends you through to more in-depth coverage. Nice feature.
It's almost surreal what's happening in terms of telematics and consumer electronics-type functionality that is being added to cars. I think the idea of leveraging the cloud to feed GPS, traffic, and safety data to your car really elevates the utility of GPS technology if it can become your personal guide to traffic avoidance based on your typical route traveled, etc. I also love the idea of feeding back all the sensor data generated by the car through the cloud so diagnostic technicians can make real and informed suggestions about what needs addressing on your car (as opposed to now where a sensor light goes on that you can choose to ignore for weeks or months on end).
Where I still have to draw the line is the whole digital concierge/rolling social media machine. For the life of me, I still don't get what kind of safety/driving utility having Facebook hooked into the electronics of your vehicle can do other than serve as a cause for driver distraction or a marketing feed to broadcast your daily routines, choices of restaurants, stores where you do errands etc. to some marketing guru who will just use it to try to sell you more stuff.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.