Midnight Cowboying: What You Will Drive in Ten Years

The way you drive today will not be the way you travel in 10 years. Unfortunately, there will no be Jetson cars, lifter technology is still in its infancy. But by around 2012 a transformation will begin to happen to our infrastructure that will be a much needed breath of fresh air.

Follow me while I futurize:

Excess Nightime Grid Energy Could Power More Than 70% Of Electric Vehicles

According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy study, there is so much excess energy on the U.S. grid nightly that if every light-duty car and truck in America today used plug-in hybrid technology, 73 percent of them could be plugged in and “fueled” without constructing a single new power plant. So much for the myth that electric vehicles will cause more emissions.

The Portland Press has a great article on the potential benefits of harnessing this excess energy and making the switch to plug-in vehicles. Apparently, each night there is a large amount of renewable power generation capacity that sits idle. Tapping into this source by plugging in our vehicles at night would harness a vastly unused portion of the U.S. grid. From the article,

“Studies have shown that plug-in hybrids produce at least 67 percent fewer harmful emissions than a standard gasoline-powered car. Even when accounting for emissions from the production of electricity, national studies have shown greenhouse gas production would fall by almost 40 percent if plug-in hybrids became commonplace. Plug-in hybrids could easily be expected to get over 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, and owners would do most of their refueling at home where the equivalent cost of electricity is about $1 per gallon.”

The most interesting thing about this revelation is that the infrastructure is already there. We don’t have to worry about supporting plug-in vehicles with refueling stations or special sources of energy. Every home is a source of fuel. The grid is more than happy to accommodate the extra load. Seems like a pretty good way to reduce oil consumption, drop emissions, and save a buck.

Of course, we will need to get the predators out of the “free market” of electrical supply that create rolling black outs for profit. If we power our vehicles at night, we can power our personal transportation and commercial trucks for freight.

I know, I can hear the hecklers in the back, HYBRIDS SUCK! True, they do. Today.

But check this out:

Texas startup says it has batteries beat
By GRANT SLATER, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas – Millions of inventions pass quietly through the U.S. patent office each year. Patent No. 7,033,406 did, too, until energy insiders spotted six words in the filing that sounded like a death knell for the internal combustion engine.

An Austin-based startup called EEStor promised “technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries,” meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles roundtrip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline.

By contrast, some plug-in hybrids on the horizon would require motorists to charge their cars in a wall outlet overnight and promise only 50 miles of gasoline-free commute. And the popular hybrids on the road today still depend heavily on fossil fuels.

“It’s a paradigm shift,” said Ian Clifford, chief executive of Toronto-based ZENN Motor Co., which has licensed EEStor’s invention. “The Achilles’ heel to the electric car industry has been energy storage. By all rights, this would make internal combustion engines unnecessary.”


EStor’s secret ingredient is a material sandwiched between thousands of wafer-thin metal sheets, like a series of foil-and-paper gum wrappers stacked on top of each other. Charged particles stick to the metal sheets and move quickly across EEStor’s proprietary material.

The result is an ultracapacitor, a battery-like device that stores and releases energy quickly.

Batteries rely on chemical reactions to store energy but can take hours to charge and release energy. The simplest capacitors found in computers and radios hold less energy but can charge or discharge instantly. Ultracapacitors take the best of both, stacking capacitors to increase capacity while maintaining the speed of simple capacitors.

Hebner said vehicles require bursts of energy to accelerate, a task better suited for capacitors than batteries.


EEStor’s founders have a track record. Richard D. Weir and Carl Nelson worked on disk-storage technology at IBM Corp. in the 1990s before forming EEStor in 2001. The two have acquired dozens of patents over two decades.

Neil Dikeman of Jane Capital Partners, an investor in clean technologies, said the nearly $7 million investment in EEStor pales compared with other energy storage endeavors, where investment has averaged $50 million to $100 million.

Yet curiosity is unusually high, Dikeman said, thanks to the investment by a prominent venture capital group and EEStor’s secretive nature.

“The EEStor claims are around a process that would be quite revolutionary if they can make it work,” Dikeman said.

Previous attempts to improve ultracapacitors have focused on improving the metal sheets by increasing the surface area where charges can attach.

EEStor is instead creating better nonconductive material for use between the metal sheets, using a chemical compound called barium titanate. The question is whether the company can mass-produce it.

So all we need is to miniaturize and then create a mass production method, and we have vehicles that can be ran off our current power grid for trips up to 500 miles. And that’s just this generation. As the plates and capacitors get smaller and more dense (picture processor boards here people, these dudes were with IBM), the length of the trip on the charge will only get longer and longer.

Until one day, you will just charge it for a few hours and be able to drive it for days.

All electric, the death of fossil fuels.

And that is how we will drive in the future. Cleanly and greenly and freely. Especially when we get wireless energy, and you never have plug the bastards back in.

Trust me, 15 years tops.


My Top 5 Favorite Things Today:

1) The first photograph ever taken – 1826 

2) Go Solar, Room By Room, For Under $600

3) SIMS Torture Test

4) Robotic Monkey Arm

5) Hipster Olympics

This is my neighborhood, and yes, it is hipster central. Conclude what you will from that.


Skip to comment form

  1. who will drive my wirelessly powered VW bus.

  2. Me, I’ve always been partial to not driving.

    My dream of the future is retro: large urban streetcar systems, a well-connected rail system and the return of wind-powered ships and zeppelins. If I never have to drive again, then that would be okay by me.

    As recently as a few years ago, I had thought about taking a retro vacation to Europe aboard the QE2 – take the train to NYC and board the QE2 to Southampton, England and then the train to London. But now in late 2008 the QE2 is being retired from service, so it is unlikely I’ll be able to afford to take such a voyage.

    I think it would be possible to create a fleet of 21st century ‘clipper ships’. Ocean-going ships powered by 21st century wind technology. It would be a green way to travel and ship goods overseas.

    But, at least in the United States, I imagine the majority of us will want cars… even if they come with monkey butler drivers. 🙂

  3. plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles

    I hope the inventors have bodyguards.

    Hipster olympics is pretty good.  I don’t have a myspace page.  Bleh.  That sounds pretty damned pro-active to me, for a hipster.

  4. must have been porn.

  5. my favorite conspiracy theory

    i hope youre right, and centuries of oracles are wrong… 😉 

    “he’s shaking his head side-to-side, as if to say, ‘no'” ~ the hipster olympics 2007

    driving wasnt my primary method of transportation until my daughter landed in a wheelchair (auto accident, ironically), and now my options are extremely limited.  as long as batteries are taking up the space i need to put her wheelchair in, im stuck in a gasmobile.

  6. The only solution to our energy needs!

    I’m sceptical about EEStor’s claims, but hopefully I’m wrong.

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