The networked car requires a complete inversion of the way we think about owning and operating a vehicle. A viable infrastructure for widespread electric car adoption doesn’t come along by just swapping in some plug-ins at your neighborhood dealership. But if this world were to come true — and through companies like Better Place and Coulomb Technologies, it already is — it would be a magical place.
Revising concepts of car ownership and power isn’t something a startup can do on its own. The concept requires revamping legacy industries and incentivizing consumer change, said a panel of auto innovators at Green:Net today. So basically, they are promising to change the world but asking for a whole lot of help and handouts and cooperation to do so. Technological innovation is only a small slice of their proposed reality.
“We’re talking about two industries that have never had to work together before — that’s the auto industry and the utilities, the grid operators,” said Rolf Schreiber, RechargeIT Engineer from Google. Panelists agreed that standardization is of utmost importance. Plug-in stations need to be interoperable. Customers of one company need to be able to roam onto another’s grid. Electrical interfaces need to sync. Utilities need to make charging cheap and efficient.
“Let’s make the vehicles talk,” said Sven Thesen of Better Place. “Standards work is not complex; it’s tedious and has to be done. The big picture is the technology is there; we don’t need to reinvent, we just need to put it in a different order. We’re talking about slow-moving old industries where change comes slowly.”
The panelists also had one more tiny request — international governmental help. They want federal loans and guarantees on batteries, subsidies for plug-in stations and regulations as added motivation.
It’s a lot to ask, yes. But folks at this conference are thinking big.