It’s back. The electric car which was a competitive technology in the early days of the automobile is back. It took a century of noise, pollution, death and destruction and lock-in to wasteful life-styles to bring it back but it is here now (soon in Canada).
Even with severe limitations of range and a stiff price-tag the Nissan Leaf is going to be a winner. For the majority of us who live in or near a city and for whom driving is not part of work, the 160 km range is likely not a problem. Overnight charging from the mains (or 30 minutes with 40 A @ 220V) is a big deal. The announced price is a bit of a problem but that’s what one expects from 24 kw-H of Lithium cells. Fortunately they have an 8 year warranty so they are a good investment. The lower maintenance and energy costs of an electric car will really pay for itself over 8 years. My family would likely save half the price of the automobile in that period of time. Of course we could save even more if we lived in the bush and went to town once a year we could save even more but my wife has informed me that will not happen. After 28 years of marriage, I am convinced she might be right. 😉
The reason gasoline powered cars took the market? They made more money for oil companies, and manufacturers loved their high-maintenance characteristics. Lots of moving parts does that for an industry. Consumers loved their power and range. Competition did keep prices in check for a long time and at first energy in fossil fuels was dirt-cheap. Now things are changing. Renewable energy provides competitive energy prices for electric power and oil prices have risen 100-fold in my lifetime. You can buy photovoltaic panels for around $1/watt and wind-turbines for around $2/watt, so the cost of energy has come down a lot. In my region, hydroelectric power costs about 7 cents/kw-H, so recharging a Nissan Leaf costs less than $2, a fraction of what our current vehicle costs to drive.
Some of the first personal computers were quite small and cheap but industry drove the price, size, complexity and weight of PCs up to optimize profits not performance/price. That, too, is changing. We see ARM moving from the embedded controller environment to mainstream computing on clients and servers. With ARM has come Android/Linux permitting lower costs combined with brilliant performance. The monopolists had their way for too long in IT, dictating that PCs must be large, heavy, noisey, hot and unreliable for decades in order to maximize profits for Wintel and “partners”. That is ending. Now, anyone in IT will have to supply and support ARM and Linux or be laughed out of town for running obsolete technology. x86/amd64 may still have some niches where it can survive. M$ may still have some niches where it can survive. Neither belongs in peoples’ pockets or desks. People have better use for the money and space and have better things to do than schedule appointments with the fix-it shops.