Silicon Valley Challenges Auto Makers to Think

A brainstorming conversation held at Google’s headquarters has led to VC investment in a new kind of electric car. Think, a Norwegian based manufacturer of next generation electric cars, is pitching the project as foreshadowing a paradigmatic shift in the logic around personal mobility and connectivity. Not only does their concept vehicle have green credentials, but it is marketed entirely via the Internet and is itself web enabled with communications and self-diagnostic tools. In an article in Business 2.0, Think CEO Jan-Olaf Willums outlines just how the company intends to compete against the huge car manufacturers.

But the technology is not without issues of its own. One glitch is that the kind of battery you need to provide energy for a small car still comprises about half the capital investment of such a vehicle. To solve this problem, Think plan to set up battery leasing and reconditioning franchises to support vehicle owners. There is also the question of the environmentally sound disposal of battery components when they reach life’s end. With input from other tech firms in Silicon Valley, these and other problems with the batteries will no doubt be addressed over time.

The only real question is about what uptake will be like in the world’s largest car market. But given growing unease over climate change and uncertainties around oil supplies, it seems like quite a good time to be revisiting the electric car idea. Traditional car manufacturers have struggled to innovate around finding greener solutions for transport. In fact they have struggled to redefine their industry at all despite huge financial losses.

But liquid fuels (of one sort of another) seem likely to remain a major part of the mix for a long time yet and electric vehicles may still struggle against the prevailing marketplace until there are further stepwise break-throughs in the technology.

[tags] cleantech, sustainability, technology [/tags]

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