General Motors is moving up the on-sale date for its Chevrolet Bolt electric car to 2017, or maybe even sooner than that. It'll cost $30,000 (after tax breaks)
about $5,000 less $2.5k more than the upcoming Tesla Model 3, which will offer a similar 200 mile range on a charge. Read the rest
My second column for the New York Times Magazine went online today. It's about the history of technology and the forces that determine which tools end up in our everyday portfolio and which become fodder for alternate history sci-fi novels.
The key thing to remember: The technologies we use today aren't necessarily the best technologies that were available. We don't really make these decisions logically, based solely on what works best. It's more complicated than that. Technology is shaped sociocultural forces. And, in turn, it shapes them, as well. The best analogy I've come up with to summarize this: The history of technology isn't a straight line. It's more like a ball of snakes fucking. (Sadly, I couldn't figure out a good way to reword this analogy for publication in the Paper of Record.) One of my big examples is the history of the electric car:
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There are plenty of reasons Americans should have adopted electric cars long ago. Early E.V.’s were easier to learn to drive than their gas cousins, and they were far cleaner and better smelling. Their battery range and speed were limited, but a vast majority of the trips we take in our cars are short ones. Most of the driving we do has been well within the range of electric-car batteries for decades, says David Kirsch, associate professor of management at the University of Maryland and the author of “The Electric Vehicle and the Burden of History.” We drive gas-powered cars today for a complex set of reasons, Kirsch says, but not because the internal-combustion engine is inherently better than the electric motor and battery.
As a Midwesterner and someone who has been paying a lot of attention to energy issues, I read Joel Johnson's recent Jalopnik essay with interest. "You're Not Alone. America Hates Electric Cars," is a pretty provocative title. But, as with most provocative titles, it doesn't really capture what Johnson is actually trying to say. So my response to this is not going to be exactly what you might expect.
I think he makes some good points. If you're expecting everybody in America to be driving electric cars in 20 years time, you're out of your mind. That's not how the turnover rate of America's automobile fleet works, for one thing. For another, that kind of sunny, environmental optimism doesn't really mesh with the kind and cost of electric cars that are currently available—and likely to be available for some time. But I also think Johnson is oversimplifying some things and is flat-out wrong on a few of the important details.
My response breaks down into five key points. Two places where I want to expand on the things I agree with, and three things I think need correcting. Now it occurs to me that this measured response might not be sufficiently antagonistic for a rebuttal piece on the Internet. So, let me add two quick comments before I dive into the nuance: First, grrrrrrr. Second, Mizzou sucks. Yeah. You heard me, Johnson. Rock chalk.*
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A short eulogy for Aptera
, and the end of electric cars as futurism. Read the rest