Sunday, February 21, 2010

DVDs are the Best Argument for Electric Cars

So the commercials for the new Nissan Leaf got me thinking about how far away we are from large scale conversion to electric cars (or some version of electric-motor-drive car, such as the hydrogen fuel cell cars we keep hearing about).

The arguments in favor are simple. While the internal combustion engine is relatively efficient it cannot be as efficient as large-scale energy generation just because of scale. Although, the power has to come from somewhere, plugging a car into your home outlet would be significantly more efficient (and therefore less polluting) in the long run than running a small-scale power station under your hood. Designing a car around a small (non-explosive) and quieter electric motor also provides infinite possibilities for improvement in safety, aesthetic and spacious design.

Contrarians that suggest the technology can't be advanced to the level of internal combustion engines (in terms of distances per charge, torque etc.) are obviously ignorant of the Tesla Roadster.

The only argument left against large-scale conversion is the cost of changing infrastructures. And in this respect we should learn a lesson from the DVD. DVDs, short for Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc, were introduced in the United States as a video format in March 1997. In less than 12 years, we not only have another potential format change (to Blu-Ray High Definition video discs), but the preferred video format prior to DVDs (VHS) are no longer produced in the United States for major film releases.

The infrastructure built to sell or rent VHS tapes (including all players, display materials, related marketing and delivery infrastructure, etc.) have all been replaced for the delivery of DVDs.

Although the scale of the economy is different in many ways (i.e. DVDs are far smaller than cars), the principle of updating or changing infrastructure is similar. If you think about it, how many 10 year old cars do you even see on the roads anymore? Tomorrow when you're driving to work, look around and think about what the world would be like if 10 years from now, that's how many internal combustion cars you saw.

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