Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A possible "vehicle" for EV success

Driving into work this morning I passed someone painting the lines on the street ... and had an interesting series of thoughts.

What was in front of me was two city utility trucks, and a little special-build gizmo that had four-wheels, a lawnmower engine, a guy sitting on a seat, and a paint sprayer. The two city utility trucks were guarding the guy on this little gizmo.

I thought -- why isn't that an EV? I'm sure that thing has a very short range requirement, and therefore doesn't need to be burning gasoline. I'm sure several people (myself included) on this board could design an EV gizmo that does the same job.

I want to zoom out to the big picture now.

The gasoholic duopoly of oil companies and auto makers are very entrenched. It makes little sense to tackle that head-on, it would be like flying the Millenium Falcon and heading directly towards one of the massive warships. As C3PO would say, the odds of surviving such a maneuver are slim. Instead nibble around the side building a larger and larger business in areas the automakers think are non-core.

e.g. The Steel Industry used to be the big thing in what are now known as the Rust Belt states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc). What happened? Well, the "mini mills" established themselves selling products that the big steel industry didn't see as core to their businesses. Eventually the mini mills businesses grew big enough that the big steel industry collapsed, because the mini mills would take one small market niche after another until the big steel industry had nothing left.

In the vehicle industry, the EV folk could work to make small vehicles like the paint sprayer gizmo I saw this morning. I'm sure that city governments are under some kind of mandate to decrease their pollution output. I remember reading some time ago that airports are being affected by such a mandate, and given the nature of airports the only avenue they had to decreasing their pollution was to electrify the ground service vehicles. In other words, there's a whole range of specialized service vehicles that could be built, that would be electrically driven, which would be a niche the big auto industry might be ignoring and could be taken by an EV supplier.

It's not as glamourous as building a car. But it could be a more sustainable business. Maybe.