The end of the road for the internal combustion automobile engine

The days of gas-powered cars are numbered. Sure, electric cars are cool and promising and are gaining in popularity worldwide, but an announcement by Volvo really helps make clear the powertrain of the future.  As reported by MotorAuthority, Volvo is no longer working on any next generation gasoline powered engines.  This doesn’t mean they’ll stop SELLING them any time soon…the current generation can last quite some time, I’m sure.  But they’re looking ahead, and they apparently don’t see the profit in developing new gas engines, not with the rise of electrics.  A big step, really, and one I expect other car companies will emulate.  Or…maybe it’s just a publicity stunt?  Volvo is owned by Chinese company Geely…so are they making this announcement for the eco-friendly news benefit, while actually planning to switch to Geely engines in the future if electrics haven’t reached the point needed by then?

Also in electric vehicle news…delivery company DHL did the math on Tesla’s new semi truck, and figured they’d break even on it in less than two years, compared to a conventional diesel truck.  For large companies that are willing to invest in capital equipment like this, switching their short/mid range fleets to electric is really a no-brainer!  It’s only a matter of time, too, before trucks like the Tesla are suitable for long-haul trucking.

Solar City to Make Battery Backup Standard

Cool news…using batteries from the gigafactory Tesla is building outside of Reno, Solar City will be including battery backup systems in 100% of the rooftop solar systems they install within 5-10 years.  This is significant partly because it helps illustrate the rapidly decreasing costs of both solar panels and battery backup systems, but also because it is likely to have a major impact on our current energy production and distribution systems…the old grid will become obsolete eventually, but the transition won’t be easy for the larger energy companies.  Read more at

Tesla releasing patents

Powering the World with Solar

AreaRequired1000Solar panels take space, but just how much land area would need to be covered with solar panels to provide 100% of this planet’s power needs (including transportation)?  The answer is pretty surprising, as the image here shows (click on it for a larger version).  It helps show just how much energy the sun is sending our way, and what a small percentage of that is actually required to power our civilization.

There’s still a matter of energy storage with solar panels, but I wonder, if long range transmission efficiency could be boosted to the point where we have a global power grid?  The sun is always shining on about half the planet…if that power could be transmitted to the dark side of the planet, there would be no need to store electricity.  Nikola Tesla suggested that just such a system could be possible.  The drawbacks are obvious though…it would be difficult or even impossible to employ Tesla’s system in a way that would allow companies to control who uses that energy.  The business model falls apart, sadly, and we live in a world controlled by business and profit.

(image credit)

The New York Times caught lying in Tesla Model S review

models_coldweathertesting10The New York Times has been caught lying in a recent review of the Tesla Model S, outed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk (Musk was quite diplomatic about this and just laid out the facts, never accusing the Times of outright lying, but I’m not diplomatic and I call it as I see it).  Even before Mush presented this evidence, he tweeted about the test to which the reporter replied, “It happened just the way I described it” (link).

So, who do you believe?  The reporter, John Broder, is no fan of electric cars and an earlier article indicates a clear bias.  The thing is, after the TV entertainment show Top Gear created a misleading and negative review of the Tesla Roadster, Tesla Motors got smart and started equipping press cars with, well, let’s just call it the ‘Special Reviewer Option Pack A’, or to describe it briefly, data logging to capture information about the car throughout the review.  It’s that information that Musk is using to contradict Broder’s story.  He never fully charged the car, and even left his final charging station when the car was saying it could only go half the distance he planned.  Even then, the car exceeded that estimated range before it finally ran out of juice (well done, Model S!).

The data is difficult to ignore, and Elon Musk’s blog post will probably lead to John Broder’s firing (or if it doesn’t, I’ll lose all respect for the New York Times).  But this focus on the data got me thinking…what if the data could be falsified?  I do not believe that was done so, I fully believe in Tesla’s data…but as a society, we’re placing more and more reliance in data, in pictures, in videos…all of which can be falsified.  We’re entering a new world where to defend yourself, your word alone will not be enough…you’ll need your own set of data to back up your claims.  This is where wearable computing may come in…imagine a personal datalogger that just works in the background, until those times you need it.  You wouldn’t need to capture all the data your accusers did…just enough data to cast doubt on that evidence.

It used to be one person’s word against the other’s in court…and to win, you attack the credibility of the other witness.  There’s a new witness in court…it’s data.  Better have your own to defend you.

UPDATE – one of the New York Times editors has posted a reply here, basically saying that there were “Problems With Precision and Judgment, but Not Integrity, in Tesla Test.”  A fair look into the issue…it helps restore my confidence in that newspaper.

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