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Technology, Fossil Fuel, & The Electric Car

There is no question that electronics had a massive effect on the 20th century. The vacuum tube, credited to Lee Deforest in 1903, transformed electronics in the first half of the century, enabling both radio and television. However, the greatest discovery of that century was the transistor by Bell Labs in 1949. The transistor was in a different league all together.

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There is no question that electronics had a massive effect on the 20th century. The vacuum tube, credited to Lee Deforest in 1903, transformed electronics in the first half of the century, enabling both radio and television. However, the greatest discovery of that century was the transistor by Bell Labs in 1949. The transistor was in a different league all together.

Let’s Take a Look at Why

In the late ’60s, I was fortunate enough to work on some of the first transistorized mainframe classified military computers. They enabled us to do things no other country could do, including go to the moon in 1969. I mark this as the first significant place in the 20th century’s history of the transistor emerging as the dominate technology of the world.

Some individuals have challenged my premise that technology dictates the future and not political ideologies. In the last 75 years, political ideologies and tyrants have risen and fallen. What has not changed? Technology and its march forward has been consistent and relentless. We saw, through the transistor, the advent of the home and business computer and how cell technology revolutionized world communications. We also saw a massive change in how business and government fundamentally work, not in any one country or political ideology, but every country. Take away the computer network and cell technology of any major country and it no longer has the ability to compete on the world stage. Period. It’s finished, regardless of whether it’s a democracy or a communist regime.

The transistor did several important things. It allowed technology to massively reduce the size of everything electronic and it reduced power consumption a billion times. Yes, a billion times! It also changed our ability to make highly efficient circuits fundamental to the power grid and renewable energy. It enabled photovoltaic modules and peripheral equipment to utilize each other efficiently and the modern electric car would not exist without it.

Our homes run more efficiently than they did even 20 years ago with transistor-driven brushless DC motors in our washing machines and other appliances, and let’s not forget those big-screen TVs that would not exist and, by the way, run on less power than a 9 inch vacuum-tube TV of 60 years ago.

Grids run on computers and LEDs have replaced even CFLs of 10 years ago. Look around your home at everything that would not be possible without the transistor. Not only would the computer I’m typing on disappear, but the internet would be gone too. It’s hard to imagine life without all that little semiconductor has given us.

PV (Photovoltaic) and the EV (Electric Car)

I remember 25 years ago when a few pioneers like myself were laughed at by the fossil fuel industry. Like Donald Trump, who naively thinks fully electric cars won’t work, the head of Exxon said back then that PV wouldn’t work because “it took too much room.”

His assessment was based on fossil fuel technology the only technology he knew. He assumed that the rich technology of PV would advance at the snail’s pace fossil fuels did. It didn’t, and now the world is pushing fossil fuels aside, as the reeling coal industry that will never come back is proving. Sure, fossil fuels will be with us awhile but how long? Anyone who thinks they know is merely guessing. Fossil fuels’ anathema is pollution and in the end pollution will thank it for its past service and send it on its way. The planet can not sustain the pollution it is receiving from fossil fuels. It affects our health, our food reserves, our oceans, and the rain forests that support life for the entire planet.

Everything we do burdens the planet even EVs and PV. They just do it less and they keep getting better and less polluting. Data from five years ago is old news. That greatly reduced power requirement the transistor gave us that I spoke of earlier equates to less pollution. We are now approaching over 98% efficiency in inverters and the electronics that drive our EV motors is getting lighter, more efficient, and cheaper. New battery technology will also emerge and improve as it has steadily done over the last several years. Many of us can remember the first 2011 Nisan LEAF that went 84 miles. Now we won’t accept any new car that goes under 2 to 3 times that far!

Where Does This Leave Fossil Fuels?

Sure, you can make advances in drilling and finding oil but you can never reduce the massive burden fossil fuels places on the planet. You simply can’t minimize its devastating pollution.

The final blow to fossil fuels is that microscopic device that keeps getting smaller and more efficient, the transistor. It will be the club that beats fossil fuels back into the ground in much the same way pathogens killed Martians in H.G. Wells’ sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds.

Fossil fuels never saw it coming. They completely misunderstood technology and the mighty transistor. No one wants a mechanical typewriter, a film camera, or a dial phone, and in 20 years, no one will want a gas car. It’s easy to assume the world will go along as it always has and, after all, fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine have had quite a happy marriage for a relatively long time. Unfortunately for fossil fuels, technology and the future have little interest in the past. They just go along their merry way relegating the past to dusty attic corners. Propaganda can not save fossil fuels — it can only delay its demise. The Trump administration can only slow down renewables and EVs so much. The only way to stop their forward march is to stop technology. No one has done that in recorded history, I don’t expect to see it now.

Any administration attempting to slow down technology will only damage its own position in the world. Now renewables and EVs are the hardball players that the world is coming to realize make the difference in their own survival and their own manufacturing power. Cheaper, cleaner, and safer power with cheaper, cleaner, and safer transportation. That’s what the transistor is giving us that fossil fuels can’t, and the world is beginning to take notice.

Greed and the Political Machine

Fossil fuels want the world to think they are invincible. Propaganda and massive amounts of lobby money won’t help oil any more than it helped coal, or whale oil. Twenty-five years ago, I told people to be patient — renewables will change the world. Today, I’m telling people be patient — EVs will change the world too, no one can stop that. Let me repeat that: no political system, no propaganda, no lobby money, and no war can change the movement to electric cars. No one on the planet could stop the massive changes the transistor has made in the world in the last 75 years, and the transistor will dictate the foreseeable future too.

Renewables are simply much better for everyone and the planet. They pollute less, diversify wealth, diversify the grid, and strengthen it. Fossil fuel industries don’t want to see energy diversification. They want everyone to keep driving up to the pump. They want to mask everything that happens to make that possible — the wars, oil spills, pollution, etc. They don’t want people to know about the studies showing significant rises in cancer rates around high-traffic areas. The hard fact is that they can’t beat technology, the transistor, and pollution.

The Auto Manufacturer’s Dilemma

Auto manufacturers have two choices: move with technology, or find another job. Elon Musk is beating them because he knows technology and how to implement it. Looking at everything he’s done, we see it involves maximizing technology. I just watched a video where a Tesla Model 3 beat a Porsche. Okay, so it had an edge in distance and other factors, but it was a family sedan and the Porsche was a full-out race car at several times its price! What won? Technology won, just like it always does. The technology of the ICE (internal combustion engine) isn’t improving significantly, so how could anyone think it can keep up with better technology?

Conventional automakers have put themselves in a technologically blind trap. They keep going in the same circle, doing everything they can to improve the ICE, which has reached its technological end point. As that point is approached, improvements become more and more finite and less significant. I think Einstein said it best:

“You can’t resolve a problem with the same thinking that created it!”

The ICE simply has no competitive chance against the electric motor.

I’ve been watching this show a long time — be patient, because EVs and renewables are the future. Sit back and watch the fossil fuel and auto industry comedy show. They tried their best to push natural gas on us as the “clean” fossil fuel. Gas leaks, fracking, etc. tell us otherwise. Clean is beating them, and clean is renewables and EVs. Welcome to the 21st century, and enjoy the ride — pun intended!

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Chris Cartelli writes for several sources. He drives an EV and lives in a net zero home.


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