Previously this site looked at a technology that is almost in hand for solving excess manmade CO2 (possible global warming) and now a simple nearly in hand technology and plan for addressing peak oil. They both need to be part of an overall energy and technology development plan, but a key point is technology and good planning can solve the issues that the world is concerned about. Some may say, hey if we can solve peak oil and climate change with those simple technologies and painless plans then we are done. No, we have to provide enough clean energy so that everyone living in China, India, Africa etc… can be rich. This will require a lot more energy per capita. Many of the negawatt plans are basically plans to make everyone poor with very little energy per person. Those negawatt are bad plans that ignore what people really want. Long term we will need to switch to clean electric power sources (nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and others)
Inexpensive electric cars that cost less than $5000 could be purchased as extra commuter vehicles without the need to wait for people to get rid of their current cars which can take a decade or more. A model of an inflatable electric car could be only $2500 in price and available starting in 2010-2011. Such an inexpensive vehicle would make economic sense to drivers who could have the cost recovered in fuel savings in one year or less instead of over ten years with current expensive hybrids.
UPDATE: Addressing the possibility that the inflatable electric car does not deliver or is a hoax. There are other cheap electric car possibilities listed here. An electric Tata Nano. The concepts for an inflatable electric car do not sound impossible and would seem to offer valid though radical concepts that would be worthwhile to research even if those behind XP Vehicles were not the ones to do it.
This would be a solution to Peak Oil. Offsetting peak oil for one to two decades allows time for the transition build up of nuclear and other energy sources. Peak oil is the problem when oil production starts to decline and the price of oil increasing rapidly. Current price increases are peak lite, with demand exceeding supply and supply still increasing. If we are able to rapidly scale up to tens of millions and then hundreds of millions of electric cars below $5000 with a driving range between charges over 200 miles and able to hold 4 passengers then the electric commuter car should rapidly achieve 50-80% adoption with some government support on prices and regulations. 30% of US and world fuel usage could then be displaced, which would be about 30 million barrels of oil per day. A straight line ten year deployment would be fuel savings that cumulatively increase at 3 million barrels of oil per day each year. If there was oil production decline then the 3 million barrels per day would offset the decline in production. This would free up any new algae biofuel production increases and other measures to address increased demand.
40% of US oil is used for cars. There are 850 million cars in the world and 2 million of them are hybrid electric.
India’s Tata Motors is rumored to produce a compressed air car that would cost around Rs. 350,000 [US$8200] in India with a range of 300 km [180 miles] and would only need US$2 for the electricity to compress the air for refueling. None of the materials for the vehicle would have supply issues for replacing 850 million cars unlike Lithium for high performance batteries. The range of the compressed air only car drops when it is driven at highway speeds to less than half the distance.
Some analysts believe the need to build an infrastructure of compressor stations and the need to comply with strict safety standards would prevent the compressed air car from being any more than city based commuter option niche vehicle.
“In North America, it’s basically a nonstarter,” says Rinek, admitting that there are limited niche markets. “The only potential, if any, would be for an inner-city, short-commute vehicle with an ultra-greenie owner.”
In the dual-mode version [hybrid], with assistance from fuel, speeds can reach 100 miles per hour, and range expands to 900 miles on less than a gallon of fuel (although the faster one goes, the shorter the range). ZPM wants to produce a 6-seater, 75-hp model with a 1000 mile range at 96 mph, all for just $17,800.
#1. Tata Nano: 4-door hatchback. India. $2,497. Weighs about 700kg.
#2. Chery QQ: 4-door hatchback. China. $4,781.
#3. Suzuki Maruti 800: 5-door hatchback. $4,994.
#4. Geely MR: 5-door. China. $5,500
#5. Geely HQ SRV: 5-door “tall” estate. China $5,780
The Speculist had noted that there appears to be a short bridge and transition in cars through hybrid cars to electric cars Very light electric cars (700 kg or less) would use one third or less the number of batteries which are the most expensive part of an electric car that is targeting the low end market. Using fewer batteries to move less material note only makes the car cheaper (which increases unit sales) but also allows for an easier ramp up of the battery industry to support more electric vehicles. Use one third the batteries and the same amount of batteries makes three cars instead of one. A projection of one million electric cars in one year becomes three million electric cars.
Currently there are 25 million electric bikes and scooters being made each year. The bikes and scooters weight 25-200 pounds and move one person at up to 70mph with ranges up to 100 miles. A light electric car (including one or two passengers) might only move three times the weight of a loaded electric scooter 400-500 pounds). Three times the batteries would be 8 million electric cars to equal the batteries fo 25 million more power electric scooters.
Lighter cars with lower power requirements can also make better use of integrated solar panels. The Prius is using 2-5 KW solar panels to power the air conditioning in a Toyota Prius
5KW is 6.7 Horsepower. The Tata Nano has a 33 HP engine. An electric Tata Nano car with 5 KW solar panels could provide 1 hour of driving time for every 5 hours of charging time.
Improve the solar cells to slightly over double the power generation would allow unlimited urban driving for an electric car.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.