Tesla Charging Forth with the Electric Battery Alternative

Date2015-05-01

The energy sources fueling our transportation have come a long way since the days of capped railway men shoveling coal with black-tinged hands into the fire of their steam engines. Fossil fuels still play a dominant role in transportation. They fuel the countless tons of steel and aluminum hauling the worlds cargo across the air and seas. The draft horse running on hay is a distant memory for most civilizations as globalism and widespread consumption form the present demand for deep, plentiful, and reliable stores of easily transportable energy. Petroleum-based fuel, namely gasoline, has been the primary energy source for most transportation for many decades, a fuel source with a devastating environmental impact and a global behemoth of an industry supporting it regardless of that impact. That behemoth now has a viable David to its Goliath, wielding one heck of a sling.

Over the past decade the call from the science community for all of us to do something about increasing global temperatures and the potential impact it will have has been heard by those in industry. Perhaps the most well known innovator and entrepeneur in this space, that aforementioned David, is Elon Musk, head of SpaceX, Paypal, and Tesla Motors. With Tesla, Musk has been the poster boy at the forefront of the electric car movement. The electric car has been around for some time. General Motors developed an electric car as far back as the mid-90's, though, as is argued by filmmaker Chris Paine in his documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" (2006), competing forces put an end to it. In the film, the fossil fuels industry is pinned with responsibility for sabotaging the success of the electric vehicle.

In the 2000's, with the unprecedented reach of Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006), information reached more people than ever before and it allowed entrepeneurs to capitalize on a new green consciousness. Indeed, the widespread movement to "green" their operations has quite literally been a marketing tool handily employed over the past decade by countless enterprises. Companies realized they could win some portion of consumers by making it quite clear that this or that product or service was suddenly more environmentally friendly.

Toyota, with its Prius, made a huge cultural impact with its electric hybrid in this new space. Toyota paved the way (pun unintended) for greener transportation, but, at that time, had not entirely shed the vehicle's requirement for fossil fuel use. There was a certain vacuum for "cool" in the electric vehicle space, which Toyota's half-there vehicle arguably lacked, and it was into this vacuum that Musk made electricity-run vehicles not only desirable for their effectiveness but downright sexy. The Tesla Roadster, released in July 2006, was the first of a number of electric vehicles that had performanced in mind. Featured on the cover of Time later that year, the Roadster lacked any whiff of the gas fumes native to fast vehicles before it and replaced petrol combustion with bundles of extraordinarily heavy but collectively potent lithium ion batteries, similar to those used in laptops. At 200 miles to the charge, the Roadster was the first viable and desirable use of electric car technology.

As electric vehicle battery technology progresses, so too does innovation in relative areas. Musk announced in April 2015 that the company would be expanding into the home energy market. With the proposed Tesla Powerwall, an estimated $3,000 priced home battery mountable to the inside of a garage or a home's exterior, Musk claims the electricity from solar panels will be able to be stored during sunless hours for use during peak periods or even to get users off the electric grid entirely. If the fossil fuels industries were the giants of energy, Musk has just slung a second stone into their collective eye. With transportation and at-home energy uses being the primary fossil fuel sinks for the average consumer, we can only wonder what lies ahead thanks to innovators brave enough to try something new, riding the torrents of information feeding a greater understanding of man's impact on our planet.