I’m at SWSW as a guest of Chevy and enjoying the benefits of behind the scenes tours and access. On Friday, the Volt team toured me and a collection of bloggers and journalists through the Pecan Street project and GM’s customer interaction center.
At one point, Colin Rowan compared the relatively long cell phone adoption (they first appeared in 1973) to the likely ramp of electric cars and green homes. Doug Moran from GearDiary pointed out the weakness of this comparison. Cell phones are inexpensive with short life-cycles while cars are expensive durables.
However, Cell phones stopped being phones around 2007 when iPhone adoption exploded. Smart phones are not phones – they are mobile platforms. In fact, they are lousy phones when compared to cell phones.
Comparing electric cars to gas cars is more like comparing smart phones to dumb phones!
While both electric and gas cars can be used for transportation, electric cars have the potential to become energy transportation platforms.
You cannot use the energy stored in your car’s gas tank for anything but moving the car around. Further, you can only get more gas from a very small set of vendors.
Electric cars are fundamentally different – the energy stored in the car’s batteries can be apply to nearly any application you want from transportation to lighting to computing to heating and refrigeration. Further, you can get more energy for your car from nearly any source (local solar and wind or grid power). For a hybrid like the Volt, the options are even broader because it includes gas to electricity generation.
From this perspective, electric cars are an energy mobility platform.
We need to accept that we are living in a world with unreliable power distribution due to weather, peak demand and/or carbon tax. In this type of situation, cars with batteries are as fundamentally different from gas cars as smart phones are to rotary POTS phone.
PS: For more extra credit reading, check out the Vehicle to Grid concept