Start a conversation about electric motorcycles or cars and you get responses quickly falling into either of two camps:
One group has no time for electric vehicles because they haven’t made the leap to practicality, they have too little range and take far too long to recharge. While admitting they have some performance potential, the downside outweighs any upside. Check back when you have something that works and in the meantime, fill ‘er up!
The other group looks at electric vehicles as the environmentally friendly answer to all of our transportation concerns, whether it’s over reliance on fossil fuels, peak oil, global warming or some other green cause du jour. Sure electrics have their downsides, but if we all just go slower and plan our drive more carefully we’ll have enough power to get to our destination where we can slowly recharge and smell the flowers. After all, we have to save the earth.
The first group wants something that works, period, anyone interested in electrics is some environmental zealot and the practical guys want no part of it while the second group would rather put up with any inconvenience because saving the earth is worth any sacrifice, if you insist on using gasoline you’re some sort of neanderthal. “How could those guys be so clueless?” is a question both sides ask. It doesn’t make for pleasant or productive conversation.
If you remember the article some time back about the rotary engine generator/battery, both groups were represented, but a couple of comments hinted at a “third way” (sounds very Zen, doesn’t it?), it’s a middle ground where the real progress might happen and make both sides sit up and take notice.
No matter which group you’re in, consider the other side. If you want practical performance, think electric, or if you want electric, think practical performance. In the first instance, forget the environment and in the second, forget the fuel. If the practical high performance option ends up being electric, who cares as long as it works? If the way to get a lot of electric vehicles on the road is to go halfway with internal combustion generators that aren’t “pure” solutions, who cares as long as it works? Focus on one thing at a time. Once we move in that direction, continued development could get us a lot closer to seeing electrics in more places and possibly to a “pure” electric solution while the development of higher and higher performance would satisfy the “show me what works crowd.”
Are you a show me what works kinda guy?
If you insist on ignoring electric vehicles you might be missing some huge performance potential. Electric motors have enormous torque available from 0 rpm throughout their range of operation, they have far fewer parts to fail than an internal combustion engine, they can easily enable multi wheel drive in motorcycles and cars because the motor can be installed inside the wheel and they have excellent control potential because computers can instantly vary the input as conditions change. That’s pretty impressive. If there was a way to use electric motors to get all or more of the performance you get now and still fill up in minutes, wouldn’t that be worth trying?
Are you a “we must convert to electric now” environmentalist?
If you want more people to look at your ideas and try electric vehicles, consider their point of view, too. If you can demonstrate to them how well electrics provide the practical performance they’re used to, don’t you think they might be willing to give it a shot?
If you think going slow for short distances is just fine, you’re never going to win over anyone who doesn’t already agree. If you advocate carbon taxes, gas taxes and multiple environmental regulations to force people to change, that’s not real change, that’s the appearance of change. You get a lot of folks who will resist, fighting your methods at every opportunity and electrics will be viewed as the government imposed solution, a sure loser in the long term.
If a less than “pure” solution gets more people, especially the high performance garage guy, working on electrics, the advances may come with astonishing speed, accomplishing voluntarily what force can’t accomplish at all. Every time you begin to preach about the environment, you lose the other side. Every good salesman knows you will sell far more if you help someone get what he wants instead of trying to convince him he needs what you’re selling. If there was a way to get a lot of electric vehicles on the road, even if they weren’t “pure” electric vehicles, wouldn’t that be worth trying?
I really like the concept of that rotary generator specifically because you can wring out all the performance you want from an electric motor and then pull into a gas station, fill up in a few minutes and be off. Current batteries can’t do that. If the rotary generator, admittedly, not ready for commercial use, or some similar technology could pull that off, think of what might happen. We would be halfway there while waiting for the battery advancements that are always just around the corner. Whether those batteries get here sooner or later, we would still have some pretty interesting vehicles in the meantime and a whole new group of guys finding out what electrics can do. If we focused on generating electricity on board instead of storing it, we could use electric motors a lot sooner. If everyone got used to the instant high torque of electric motors while still having quick fill up convenience, when that super long distance, fast charging battery finally arrives, the switch to full electric would be a non issue.
I think this “third way” has a lot of potential for both camps and I’m curious about how willing the supporters on both sides might be to try the halfway solution. Your thoughts?