Rumors circulated inventor Nikola Tesla successfully tested a car that ran on ambient atmospheric electricity, but his plans never materialized. The world wasn't ready for the promise of clean, cheap, unlimited energy. Tesla finished his career in a small room at the New Yorker hotel feeding pigeons. The day he died, the FBI took his papers, returning only a small portion deemed appropriate to the Yugoslavian government, which in turn built a museum to house them. Thankfully the Tesla archives in Belgrade survived allied bombings. The Yugo factory didn't.
Why would the FBI barge in and appropriate the private papers of an aging, out of favor, genius? Tesla died during WWII in 1943. One of his acquaintances was a notorious Nazi propagandist spy, George Sylvester Viereck. The US government was afraid Tesla's technology would fall into enemy hands. Once Truman dropped Einstein's and Oppenheimer's bomb over Japan, Pandora's box had cracked open. The Office of Strategic Studies merged with exiled factions of German intelligence to form the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1947 the National Security Act was signed into law, making all energy conversion research subject to classification, nuclear or otherwise! Paranoia ran rampant.
Two wonderful decades went by on planet earth as the automobile changed cultures and lifestyles. Then one morning a few science professors woke up realizing the damage those tail pipes were doing to the air we breathe. Subsequently 30 million people took to the street on Earth Day 1970... then nothing... or barely nothing... a billion automobiles powered by gasoline still cruise the streets and highways of North America, contributing over 25% of the world's greenhouse gases.
So what happened? Why, after 35 years, have we yet been able to market a better horseless carriage, one that wouldn't fowl up the air? Would we have been left better off with the stink of poop? Well, to quote Bart Simpson, the pen is mightier than a bag of flaming poop... so I decided to ask a few friends and colleagues, all leaders in the electric vehicle community, some with cushy jobs at major companies, to debate the issue in a string of private emails. All agreed to share their thoughts with me, as long as I wouldn't reveal my sources.
What you will read below are not just my words and convictions, but that of half a dozen other industry professionals fed up with the status quo. Because we all have to put bread on the table, whistle blowing isn't an option for most people. I'm lucky. I have nothing to lose. I don't derive my income from the EV industry. I'm free to speak my mind openly. All I stand to lose is access, not lose my livelihood. They on the other hand, are in no position to bite the hand that feeds them.
The major driver in battery innovation today are laptops and cell phones! While lead-acid batteries are still found under the hood of every car, our love affair with television equals our love affair with the automobile. Video graphics quickly deplete batteries, and now that we demand CNN (and porn) streaming into our mobile devices, the mad rush to develop better batteries is on.
Yet, strangely enough, we discovered that research labs and institutions licensing state of the art battery protocols also restrict their application, with a specific clause prohibiting the use of these new batteries for propulsion! As John Stewart would say on the Daily Show... Whooaatttt? What a surprise that the new companies jockeying for position controlling the development and penetration of Pocket TV communications are owned by SAIC, the CIA's largest contractor, the same people who gave us the Internet.
Last year Electrifying Times organized events in Connecticut to encourage the state to pay closer attention to better motors and better batteries, both for civilian and military applications. These talks were held at the Pequot Museum and at Yale University. This networking process is chronicled on the BMBB website. But to date, even though Connecticut has again been awarded a massive chunk of the defense budget, batteries and motors are not on the agenda, at least not the agenda the general public gets to see.
One would think it strange that the two technologies that show the most promise in reducing global warming, motors and batteries, would still not lead the debate with organizations like the Alliance to Save Energy for example. Everybody is still beating around the bush... why? What forces are at work constantly relegating motors and batteries to a footnote when in fact their efficiency and consumption are at the heart of the solution to the global warming issue? It's here that I want to quote one of the participants in our backroom chat:
That would explain why today the Electric Drive Transportation Association, or EDTA, the largest electric vehicle trade organization, funded by the coalition of all top auto makers and electric utilities, would exclude the general public from its conferences. Its sister international parent organization, the Electric Vehicle Symposium, or EVS, tolerates public days, but doesn't go out of its way to promote them. For example, when EVS was held in Long Beach CA last year, there were no mentions of the show in the Los Angeles Times or any of the other local daily press. There was a total news black out on the show taking place. Only trade was invited or knew of the show's existence. Unless you read trade news, like Electrifying Times, EVWorld or Green Car Journal, you wouldn't know these shows existed.
There is something Machiavellian about keeping your enemies closer. I've spoken to Brian Wynne, president of EDTA, about his organization playing the role of fox guarding the hen house, an accusation he scoffs at. But the truth is in EDTA's actions, or rather non-action, as the perpetrator of inertia. As a trade organization it has failed to generate the necessary public enthusiasm and bring electric vehicles into the forefront of public interest, this by closing its exhibit hall showcasing concept cars and prototypes to the automobile consumer fan base.
Instead, we have suspiciously released pictures of hundreds of crushed EV1s stacked up top one another as a perfect poster for the demise of all electric vehicles. These pictures, widely circulated on the Internet, nailed the coffin shut. Sony recently bought all the rights to the EV Confidential documentary chronicling GM's staged intentional EV1 debacle, and in its PR materials announcing the wide release of the film in theaters, again the electric car is described as something of the past, a failed idea whose time has come and gone.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Thank God we still have some courageous crusaders out there who are not afraid to put their career and reputation on the line to get the truth out. Actor George Clooney for example, who drives the streets of LA with a miracle of an electric car, the Tango. The only expensive component in that car are the motors and the battery. None of which would cost nearly as much as an internal combustion engine if put into mass production.
Right now all electric vehicles on the road are either prototypes, or failed experiments, using inadequate technology. All this because battery companies have stumbled to produce affordable, powerful batteries to meet the needs of electric transportation. Lithium Ion innovation languishes at University licensing offices, companies go into business with partial protocols, doomed to fail, as if their funding was intentionally green lit toward that intent. Other companies misappropriate funds and then file for bankruptcy, assembly line idle.
Whether this is the result of an organized conspiracy to prevent state of the art solid state Li-ion batteries from entering the market place, or a confederacy of dunces, the results are the same. Those individuals entrusted to bring better motors and better batteries to market have miserably failed doing so and should be replaced, immediately. In my opinion, the military should get involved. But here again, might be the reason why not:
I can correlate such reports from personal experience, as I too have met military personnel, in this case an admiral in the British Navy, who told me similar stories. As a child, a friend of my father, Dimitri Ribicoff, walked us through his Florida factory where he built mini-subs for the US Navy able to last 40 hours at speeds up to 40 miles per hour (under water!) using an aluminum battery of his own design. This was back in the early 70's! Electrifying Times has on its website Congressional 1968 documents describing General Electric's unwillingness to develop electric cars so as not to go into competition with its number one customer, General Motors! As they say in la belle France: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!"
On Friday November 19th, a Nickel-Metal Hydride Pelican Brief was published on EVWorld's blog, in what is probably one of the most compelling argument for a Congressional investigation, quoting Charles Whalen and Paul Scott, expanding on ideas brought forth in Electrifying Times's Good Toyota, Bad Toyota article, about the legal judgment against Panasonic in favor of Cobasys's NiMH patents. I urge you to read this brief. But please also realize that the suppression of information and resources worsens as battery chemistry advances. Charles Whalen writes:
While governments and industry have lavished immense investment capital on fuel cell research, a pricey, complicated, still chemically-based technology, requiring an entirely new hydrogen fuel distribution infrastructure, the promise of simple Li-ion solid state battery technology, which is polymer (plastic) based, lightweight and in theory at least, cheap and easy to mass produce, languishes. Here's commentary from another one of my email correspondents:
or again this from another source:
My own experience with Stanford and his wife was that he had to sell out his NiMH technology to get his amorphous silicon photovoltaic factory out of debt. In Michael Shnayerson's book The Car That Could about the history and demise of the GM EV1, Stanford comes out as a hero for stealing a NiMH battery pack from GM-Ovonics and giving it to Solectria to go on and win the Tour de Sol electric car rally with a 250 miles range on a single charge!
The Captains of Industry conspire to keep this from happening... throwing the public a few bones... We need to figure out a way around this if we are ever to obtain the building blocks of a truly great electric automobile.
On December 9th, a new movie starring George Clooney called Syriana appeared in theaters. A few days prior, George hosted a private screening in New York for a few friends and colleagues. Be ready for the feathers to fly! Pictures are posted on Patrick McMullan's website, a "good" paparazzi based in Manhattan who uses his stock photo agency to chronicle the meetings and goings on at celebrity studded charity events, like ABC Home & Planet or the Collage Foundation.
We are not alone. As the weather keeps getting worse, our allies grow in ranks, and there's safety in numbers. Keep asking the right questions. Keep wondering why seemingly incompetent people are elected to run trade organizations in theory there to assist in the growth of our industry and failing miserably with commercial fiascos like the EV1 or the suppression of battery innovation.
Last night on the Discovery Channel, I saw a documentary Pompeii of the East about a planetary event that took place back in 1818. A volcano erupted all the way around the globe in Indonesia blanketing the earth with a cloud of debris so thick, temperatures in Europe and North America dropped 10 degrees, crops failed, millions starved. This time around we're doing it to ourselves. Think about it. All in the name of mighty profit!
Chevron-Texaco has been caught red handed with feathers in their mouth, giving environmentalists a clear mandate to intervene. Over the years, ECD/Ovonics has shown little or no interest in actually producing NiMH automotive battery packs, only limit the ability of others from doing so instead. This in effect, in the court of public opinion, renders null and void any claim to patent ownership. We now know the truth about battery technology suppression, so I urge you to write to your state representatives, as well as Cobasys, demonstrating how painfully aware you have become of the NiMH legal situation and the detrimental effect it is having on international efforts to curb global warming.
Larry Elliott says it best in this commentary, found on the NiMH Pelican Brief blog