Saturday, February 27, 2016

Technology Leaps; Why Did The Fuel Cell Fall On Its Face Before It Left The Starting Gate?

Technology does not ooze forward. (unless its cellphones) In truth, technology discoveries do inch forward but "technology acceptance" comes in leaps and bounds and this primarily due to the confusion created by computers that have obscured the ability of the average consumer to recognize, utilize and appreciate enhancements.

We all know who won the videotape wars but do we know why?  VHS won but not because it was better or cheaper. In fact, it was neither.  Beta was better but its "technological leap" was too small to matter. There was no compelling reason to change technology (and rebuild our videotape library!) This same problem plagues cellphone manufacturers today.  Great products at better prices hit the market every day only to be buried by their lesser but well known and widely accepted competitors.  And the reason is that we will not accept newer technology if there is familiar technology, even if its lesser, slower, smellier, or smokier.  We simply get comfortable with what we know and we resist change.

But in this case, advances in technology are not only cool but vital to our survival on Earth and in no area is this more obvious than personal transportation but Big Oil has assured that many of us continue to be oblivious to the true detrimental effects of fossil fuel technology.  So the question that we EVers have struggled over is how is the Oil Industry able to fight us when they have no real ammunition?  EVs aren't "slightly" better. They truly are a significant leap forward.  So why are we struggling?

Well, the Oil Industry has a huge advantage and that is familiarity.  They can relate aspects of "oilizing" to something we have extensive experience and knowledge about and that is gassing up.  We have done it so many times we accepted it as "ok."  We have simply stopped analyzing our true preferences over the chore of stopping for gas and nowhere is this more obvious than when we switched to electric. It did not take many of us very long to be "customized" to filling up at home.  It wasn't until a return to the gas world like company cars, rentals, etc. that we realized just how much we hated stopping for gas!

So the real challenge for electric vehicle adoption is familiarity. Right now, the bulk of new EV purchases are coming from word of mouth.  Friends and relatives of current EVers.  This is ok but its a slow process.  Public charging helps to spread the word as well especially when gassers actually see EVs plugged in. Soon they become familiar with the sight and begin to equate them as normal


We could promote hydrogen cars.  So the question becomes  $30,000 charging stations or a Million Dollar Hydrogen refueling station... Hmmm??  What would you choose?  Because adoption of new technology has to be familiar before it becomes widespread. The more money we have on the table, the more familiar it has to be.  Until charging stations attain the same spread as gas stations, EVs will struggle.  Recently California approved funding to complete the West Coast Green Highway. This puts fast chargers on the highways 25-40 miles apart so one could drive a LEAF from Canada to Mexico.  For the most part; Washington and Oregon completed their portions years ago. Funding for the project is looking to be 8.8 million with 4 million going to Chargepoint to put in the dual QCs.  I am not finding good information on how many stations will be installed but a quick glance at the map shows mostly non existent coverage from South central California to Oregon.

So we can cover over half the state with a basic fast charge network for the same cost as 2-3 hydrogen fueling stations?  

Yeah, tough decision.... NOT!


  1. Dave apparently that reality is setting in. I really appreciate your putting the time in on your blog. Its mind candy ! - Pat Campbell, Vancouver

    1. Thanks Pat! As always, I greatly appreciate the time you take to chime in. Yeah, its simply a math problem. I am shocked at the relatively low amount of money needed to cover California! Its such a big place!

  2. What? Technology is born in war times. Technology is accepted when it is economical.

    1. Kevin; I think you need to realize that not all wars are booms and bangs. Capitalism is in a war for its very survival and there will be plenty of bloodletting and soon!

  3. Dave,
    I can attest to Washington and Oregon having finished their section of the West Coast Electric highway and the difference it made.

    I drove from Canada to California in less than 24 hours from Jan. 1 to Jan. 2 THIS YEAR.

    When I got to the border of California, I was slowed significantly again by California's foot dragging.

    I'm glad the home of the electric car is finally getting with the program, but I offer kudos above all to progressive work in Washington and Oregon which allowed me to demonstrate what the humble Leaf--a 2013 "S" with 84 miles rated range no less--can do in a day.

    650 miles. And no, that is not a typo.

    Brian Kent
    The Negative Carbon Roadtrip...
    ...driving the world to a cleaner future.

    1. Thanks for the reply Brian! It is people like you that demonstrate the only limitation of the LEAF is the driver! But we still need a teeny bit of help. Read my "DOA" blog where I was left stranded only because an ENTIRE town uninstalled their charging stations! CA filling the gaps helps everyone, even us. Eventually WA will be forced to expand simply because we demand it and our voice is getting louder every day!

  4. The adoption of EV's is hindered by cost, range and charging time. Until Battery cost drops to the point that a 200-250 mile range EV is produced at a entry cost comparable to a mid level IC car the average person will not change. It is easy to say that with incentives a EV is comparable but most people consider the cost at purchase when buying a car, not after they may or may not get a tax deduction. Perhaps if they were to change the rebate to a deduction at the time of purchase things might change!

    1. I dont think we have to wait that long but then again, the waiting appears to be almost done. A year from today, we might be on the cusp of all kinds of options (except Tesla) but its not price. The average selling price of a new car today is over $31,000. That is less than several EVs after the fed tax break. I am willing to bet a 200 mile range car released a year ago would only be mildly more successful than the aggregate sales of all lower tiered EVs on the road today but only because in our circle; EVs are well known and like you, I would have jumped all over it but people outside the circle would not really see that much of a difference unless public charging was evolved enough to make a difference.