Writing the other day about a surge in plug-in electric vehicles here reminded me of a conversation I had in the early 1990s about electric vehicles with Pat Kelly, a former Air Force navigator and at the time fellow employee at TRW. The GM EV1 was not on the market yet.
Both Pat and I were electronic warfare officers and navigators in short range aircraft, he in Tactical Air Command and me in Strategic Air Command. He had spent a tour over Thud Ridge in the back seat of an F105 Wild Wessel confronting North Viet Nam surface to air missile batteries and I had been a right seater in the SAC FB-111.
While we shared a common back ground, at times were rivals in the Air Force. He was a TAC guy and I was a SAC guy, even thought we were both working on the same problem. How to get immediate electronic intelligence into computer driven electronic warfare systems under combat conditions. We just viewed the world from a different point of view. His was a tactical warfare perspective and mine was more strategic nuclear warfare.
Pat and I were enjoy a scotch and soda in a motel bar, we had just spent the afternoon listening to the genius at Cal Tech Pomona talking about the future of electric vehicles. Part of our mission at TRW was to look for new ideas, emerging technologies, and connect the dots to future business opportunities.
Without introduction, Pat said, “They will never sell” “What will never sell,” I asked.
“Electric cars,” he answered. “Range anxiety!” This was an insightful comment on a condition that is slowing the sales of electric vehicles today.
Pat suggested there was a business opportunity in developing an onboard planning tool that would take these factors into consideration, along with an interactive map of all charging stations, thus reducing driver range anxiety. By drawing the route on the map, a terrain factor could be added to the distance calculation, a weather report could provide wind direction and speed, choosing the planned use of on board devices, could also adjust the projected driving range. Knowing how far the vehicle could drive under all conditions and were the next charging station could reduce the range anxiety, but not eliminate it.
Today, this planning tool would perhaps be on the drivers iPhone or Android App, but in the early 1990 cars did not yet have onboard navigation computers with video displays. Even with an onboard computer, or smart phone app, the problem today is there are not enough charging station to reduce much range anxiety. But, worry not the government is going to come to the rescue. Many cities will soon be installing free charging stations, subsidized by the federal government. Electric car drivers will pay $25.00 and get all the juice they need for six months. Who pays the bill? You guessed it… the taxpayer. Just as Viagra has reduced anxiety over Erectile Dysfunction, taxpayer will soon be reducing range anxiety by providing a plethora of charging stations. I wonder if these charging stations will be painted Viagra blue?