By Gordon Hughes
I was having lunch the other day in the Village with two friends, good friends, for whom I have great respect. They were both of the firm conviction that battery power would never replace fossil fuel energy for automobiles, farm equipment or household electrical needs etc. They sincerely believe there is no real future in battery power just as they don’t believe in climate change. That is when I said to them “you guys should invest in the buggy whip business”. My grandfather told me, when I was just a kid, that when he was just a kid, folks would yell at people who owned automobiles that got stuck on a muddy road “get a horse”. Then they would laugh at the poor bloke. Well we now know how that worked out. I am no engineer, scientist, or futuristic guru, however I see some subtle and not so subtle changes occurring. While out in California on two recent trips I was fortunate to stay at a couple of great resorts. I was struck by their groundskeepers’ array of tools. They were using lawn mowers and leaf blowers as well as other equipment that were battery, not gas powered, and therefore silent. When I inquired about these tools, which I’d never seen before, I was informed that it was to please the guests and parenthetically create less air pollution. This combination thrilled the guests who were delighted not to be awakened at six am to the annoying array sounds. I have a nephew who is a Southern California builder and knows all the modern innovations in housing from gardening tools to electrical sophisticated household upgrades. With rolling blackouts and 100-degree temperatures, having no air conditioning is becoming very problematic. He explained to me that battery storage and the improvement therein is a big deal now. Currently newer homes are being fitted with garage walls that serve as major electrical/battery storage units. These walls can store electricity longer than ever before. When the sun goes down these homes can continue to run on the stored electricity. He tells me that it works well but is still in a highly primitive state. Much as the early automobiles were not as efficient as the horse. Yesterday I saw a story on battery powered aircraft. It appears that all the major aircraft companies are establishing battery powered planes. Airbus and Boeing are currently in development of large battery powered aircraft (New York Times Sunday Business Section 4/17). They are following the automotive business model. So Tesla in the air. Newer smaller batteries are also in the developmental stage. The world is indeed changing.
So back to my two pals, I told them that as I replace my farm equipment I am going electric.
I just replaced my gas leaf blower, for Spring clean-up with an electric version. Best of all I do not have to use a choke and pull that annoying cord. Think how you used to start a motor boat or motor cycle. Now just push a button and you are off to the races. My friends are still thinking of paper weights in offices, from the 1930’s when without a paper weight papers would fly around the office. That was before AC when we used fans. There is no longer a need for paperweights. I said “Just imagine an electric street sweeper (noiseless) going down Hudson St. while you are having an outdoor coffee at Cafe Panino Mucho Gusto”. All new innovations take time. R&D, failure, retooling and finally a well running new idea. Tesla and other cars are here now and sales are growing. The day will come when electric cars will surpass the gas guzzling current automobile. Yes it will happen, and really in the not too distant future. Battery size is the issue of the day. Somewhere there is a team of scientists that will reduce that wall of battery’s to a unit as small as an iPhone. Let’s not be Luddites. If I were my friends I would pass on buggy whips and be thinking about investing in what’s coming. Look at the future through the windshield not the rear view mirror. Just a thought.