Our free enterprise economic system is based on something called capitalism, which many of its advocates love until it affects them.
We’re seeing an example of this here in Kern County, where the petroleum industry on the west side of the Tehachapi Mountains is worried about the renewable energy industry on our side of the mountains.
Which has cleaner air than the west side because we don’t have an oil industry out here.
Slowly but surely clean electric energy generated by solar panels, wind turbines, hydro power and other sources is replacing energy created by dirty carbon-based power sources.
That’s a big deal in a county which is one of the largest sources of petroleum on the planet.
I fully understand this because my father was employed in the “ol’ bidness” all his life, first for Shell, then by the Mojave Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station where he managed fuel operations during the Korean War, and later at Edwards Air Force Base.
We moved here in 1948 because the air quality in the Valley was slowly killing him.
My brother and sister and I were raised on oil.
Times change, and dirty, smelly oil fields are being replaced by clean wind turbines and by the solar panels like those on my roof and the roofs of other residents, at Mojave Junior-Senior High School, at the Mojave California Highway Patrol area office and at local solar projects.
Slowly but surely automobiles and other motor vehicles are being powered by electricity, originally by hybrid power and now by pure electricity.
The fears of range anxiety and cost are gradually disappearing as technology improves. Solar panels like those on my roof are being superseded by newer models less costly and much more efficient. Some of them are being replaced with dual purpose solar shingles.
Battery packs are accompanying solar and wind installations in our county to store energy for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun don’t shine, as battery technology steadily improves.
As I recently noted, the fear that cars will “suck up all the electricity” are baseless — it is estimated that the number of electric-powered vehicles would have to approach 50% of all vehicles to make any impact.
By which time additional power sources and more efficient vehicles will be available.
While charging stations for electric vehicles are popping up all over — the county is mandating them at new service stations and truck stops — many electric car owners charge their cars overnight at home, at much less than the cost of filling cars with gasoline or diesel.
As with any new technology, the purchase price of electric vehicles is coming down.
One day in the not too distant future the “Electric Model T” will come to market and oil will be done for, not because of the governor but because of the unrelenting march of technology.
That will happen with the development of ultrathin and flexible solar panels that will be applied to vehicle roofs and will realize the long-held dream of a perpetual motion machine.
Laugh if you will, but no one believed humans could fly, let alone go into space.
Electric vehicles cost about a third as much to repair and maintain because they have fewer moving parts leaving more room for luggage.
I’ve been watching the popular PBS show “Motorweek” since it came on the air in the early 1980s.
Each week they test drive two cars, and, along with the “Goss’s Garage” feature, raise the hoods of (mostly) carbon powered vehicles.
It is getting amusing to look at all the “stuff” crammed under the hoods of traditionally powered cars, little of it needed in electrics.
Like radiators, or that big block of steel or aluminum that dominates the space, and all the other stuff not needed to power us quietly along in EVs.
The new paradigm for vehicles is a “skateboard” chassis on which are placed batteries and invertors that transmit power to axle-mounted traction motors like those on railroad locomotives.
This design opens up all sorts of opportunities for more practical car interiors.
The best way to appreciate the difference between oil powered and electric powered vehicles is to drive an all-electric car.
My first electric was Burt Rutan’s GM electric, which he got to drive (and enjoy) until GM took them all away from their drivers.
“Punch it!” Burt urged when I demurely started away from the curb.
“Punching” the accelerator on an EV slams you back in the seat as the car zooms forward.
A Maryland police officer featured in a recent Motorweek piece who convinced his chief to buy an electric patrol car said its super torque “allows me to catch bigger and more powerful gas-powered cars.”
“It’s also quieter making it easier to sneak up on people,” he said with a laugh.
The first time I test-drove a hybrid at Kieffe and Sons Ford in Mojave, nothing happened when I turned the key on. I turned it again. Still nothing.
Or so I thought. I walked into the showroom and one of the salesmen said: “Watch that tree on the dashboard. When it turns green, the engine is running.”
Which it did. Silently.
The big problem many people have with understanding the future is that they forget that technology constantly changes thanks to the efforts of really bright people, like those at the Mojave Air & Space Port and the Air Force Test Center at Edwards.
When we moved here in 1948, our one phone was a big black blob on the wall and our number was “7.”
The number is longer but I can answer it on my wrist.
Just like Dick Tracy did when I was a kid.