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Hybrid Concept Cars, The Future is Now Conclusion

If you have missed the first two articles on this topic you can read them here and here. In this grand finale, if I may call it that, I will show you the best of the best (in my opinion) of the concept cars recently reported on on yahoo.com. These I thought were either really cool looking and futuristic or had really cool ideas or that I just kind of liked more than the others. Anyway, without further ado, let's start the "Hey, that's cool" category. In third place we have the Toyota Volta: hybridcars_130_toyota.jpg This car looks like it could go very very fast. It also looks like the maximum height you could possibly be to drive in this vehicle is 5'5" and that is pushing the limit. I don't know if this is the fastest electric hybrid on the market but with dual electric engines (one for each front tire) this car boasts that it has a 408 horsepower hybrid engine, the safety of all-wheel drive and can do 0-60 in just four seconds. Look at those desert dunes. This car is ready to climb them, but I am a little worried that the hills are too steep and those don't really look like tires that get the best traction. So, maybe it's not good to drive in the desert, but since no one really off roads their vehicles like they do in the commercials, I think this car might be OK.Second Place goes to GM Saab Aero X: hybridcars_130_saab.jpg How cool is this car? It's totally like a Back to the Future kind of futuristic car. Very nice, looks sleek but the only problem I visibly see with this vehicle is this: what happens when you lock your keys in the car? I really don't think the tow truck operator is going to be able to jimmy this particular vehicle. Well, I guess that is good b/c no one can steal your car that way but think about this, what are you going to do if the "door" stops working? I don't think climbing into the trunk is a viable option, either. This is cool, too: " the Saab Aero X's cockpit completely eliminating conventional dials and buttons. Instead, Saab displays data on glass-like acrylic "clear zones" in graphic 3-D images." Very futuristic. It has a 400 horse powered engine that runs completely off of ethanol. Over all this is the car of the future, as soon as we figure out how to open the door. And in first place in the "cool kids" category goes to the Honda FCX Concept  hybridcars_130_honda.jpg Look how shiny and aerodynamic. Look how many seats it has (prob the most in this category).  It also employs a concept call vertical gas flow, meaning that the car uses gravity to help it conserve energy and make it's fuel cells more productive and helps this vehicle to improve the fuel cell storage space to allow for a much roomier car.  "With these improvements, the FCX fuel-cell car now has a driving range of 354 miles—a 30 percent improvement from the 2005 model—and a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour"  Not too bad, if I do say so myself. Over all, I am very pleased to see that American car companies are taking the right step towards hybrid technology.    Hopefully we see continued competition to create more and more efficient and environmentally happy vehicles for public consumption without detrimental impact on consumer wallets.

Hybrid Concept Cars, The Future Is Now Part 2

So yesterday our cars of the future article was on "Didn't they do this already". I think today's category is "Wouldn't be Caught Dead in This". You can try to persuade me that people buy cars based on power and performance all you want but I am pretty sure that the look and style of the car is pretty important, too. Just like no one will ever want to be seen in the environmentally friendly Hummer, I can imagine the same will be said of most of these vehicles. In third place we have the Ford Mercury Meta One. hybridcars_130_mercury.jpg You may argue that this car isn't necessarily the ugliest car you have ever seen, in fact it's okay. Work with me here for a minute, if you please. Think back to that movie about the cars that try to kill people. You know the one, the really bad Stephen King movie, Maximum Overdrive? This car will eat you. And your children. And then your neighbors and their families until it runs out of gas, which will take a little longer than a normal SUV since this runs on nice and clean " hybrid transmission with a twin-turbocharged V-6 diesel engine calibrated to run on a bio-diesel blend". You can see how I feel this is potentially hazardous to everyone, right? Just look into those headlight "eyes". Those are the headlights of a killer. Second Place in the ugly stick contest goes to the Volvo 3CC: hybridcars_130_volvo.jpg This vehicle is kind of ugly. I mean, it's nice and aerodynamic and boasts that it can run on any type of power system (gas, ethanol, hybrid or electric). But, it looks kind of...lame. Like the vision of the future that they had in the seventies where the high fashion of the times happens to be tunics and tennis skirts. And it only sits three people and quite uncomfortably, if you really look at it. And it also takes 10,000 lithium-ion batteries (like the ones in your lap top) to power. Only 10,000? That's nothing. First place goes hands down to the Nissan Pivo for obvious reasons: hybridcars_130_nissan.jpg It's electric and it swivels. Enough said. Eventually I will get around to posting the best of these concept cars. Thanks for reading!

Hybrid Concept Cars, The Future Is Now

So a recent article on yahoo.com's main page is all about green concept cars. It has some of the main players and a lot of pretty pictures. Here are the cars listed with a brief description as to alleviate you having to go to another site to read all about them. I am saving you time, thus saving you money as well so you can save it up to buy one of these awesome cars when the time is right. I am going to break these down into three categories: Drivable/hey that's cool, Wouldn't be caught dead in this, and Didn't we already do this? Um, Alex, I would like to start with Didn't We Already Do This for 200 please. hybridcars_130_vw.jpg Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce to you the 2010 VW Microbus, um I mean Chameleon. So, yeah, apparently the late 60's are back and we are all going to be peace loving pot smoking patchouli smelling hippies. At least we have the perfect vehicle for it, I mean this "new" vehicle is all electricity powered with 10 count them 10 30v batteries in the floor to power the vehicle. Oh, the surf boards are thrown in free of charge, they are fitted with solar panels for recharging the batteries. This is the vehicle for those fifty somethings to relive their youth in a perfectly environmentally friendly manner. Second place in the "Didn't we already do this" catagory is BMW X3: hybridcars_130_bmw.jpg

2009 BMW X3

VS:

2007 BMW x5

BMW X5, 2007 You know, they say that if you never change in business, you are insane. Well, BMW didn't listen. This car looks neither futuristic nor retro, meaning it just looks kind of now. It's not even trying very hard to be environmentally friendly. Instead of using a battery it incorporates a superconductor, which provides energy in short bursts. It gets an "A" for effort but nothing else. This concept car is only getting about 20% better millage than most of the cars that BMW currently produces (none of which are hybrids). This is a poor contending mom-mobile in the concept car to the future race. Third Place in this category is the GM Sequel. hybridcars_130_gm.jpg What is cool about this vehicle is that it runs on a hydrogen fuel cell and the fact that most of this car's engine components are located underneath the car and not under the hood.  It does make for a roomier car but the looks are just kind of standard, this car does not make me think that I am living in the 21st century at all.  I wonder what it is the sequel to?  Most movie sequels are not good, they are almost never as good as the original.  Just saying, it doesn't look good for this sequel, at least in my book. Check back later for the other two categories, it is sure to get interesting.

Why Google is Worth More than AOL and Verizon

As I write this, Google has a market cap of about $148 billion, compared to Verizon at $124 billion and AOL parent Time Warner at $82 billion. Google might rule the Web search market, but Verizon's $88 billion and Time Warner's $44 billion in revenue last year dwarf Google's $10 billion. Why would a smaller company that makes less money be worth more to investors than larger competitors? Are they just being irrational? Maybe so, but I think there is at least one good reason why Google has been so successful: it has focused on providing services, rather than content or infrastructure. Why is this important? Think about it this way: whenever you do anything on the Internet, chances are you can break it down into three layers: 1) Infrastructure - your connection to the Internet, whether it's Cable, DSL, dial-up, FIOS, etc. 2) Service - the application you use to get what you want done, for example the search engine you use to find things or the mail client you use to read you email. 3) Content - the stuff you read, watch, listen to, or create yourself for others to see. This is of course not a strict hierarchy, but it is a way to look at just about any medium to get some useful insights. Small companies and new startups usually have to compete within one of the layers, just because you can only do so much with limited resources. So a magazine might put up a web site to provide content, and a VOIP company won't build it's own DSL lines, it will just provide VOIP service. Many larger companies eventually find it tempting to cover two of the categories or even all three. This seems like a good idea, and you will hear a lot about "synergies" and things like that. In the best case maybe the company will have some cost savings and be able to provide more value to customers because they no longer have to pay other companies for the other layers. Quite often, though, this can lead to "walled gardens" where companies try to steer users through their systems at each level. AOL, for example, used to keep a lot of premium content off of the Web available to their ISP subscribers. Verizon sells Internet access on it's cell network, but you'd better believe they want you to buy ring tones and MP3s through them rather than some random retailer. In the worst case this leads to illegal monopolistic behavior. Now Look at Google. They seem to have very little interest in providing or controlling the Infrastructure. To Google an Internet connection is an Internet connection. In addition, they have very little interest in being the content provider - Google wants to organize the world's information, leaving the creation of information up to the world. This gets them in trouble with companies that wish to control the content and the service, and use their control of content to force users into their service. Google makes it's play at the service level, with the search engine, Gmail, Google News, etc. YouTube is a good example of how Google can grow and compete in new areas while still keeping within the service layer. Verizon might see YouTube as competition for their IPTV service, but note that YouTube isn't building fiber to every house. Time Warner produces TV shows (content), runs networks (service), and operates the cable running out to your house - meanwhile YouTube lets users produce video themselves. So why is this an advantage for Google? Think about it this way - Google could try to extend their dominance of search into content, but would Google really make better content than everyone else? Google could try to buy up or build out infrastructure, and judging by their data centers they might be able to do a really good job of it. But could they build infrastructure to reach the whole world? Would owning the connection give them an excuse to make the services less flexible, and ultimately less useful? In more general terms, for some services these separations are so obvious that you probably haven't even thought about the alternative. Email is a good example - although in the ancient past the service was tied down to the infrastructure, I would have a hard time imagining a service provider trying to generate the content themselves. Would you use an email service where you couldn't email your mom, your professor, your boss, etc., but could correspond with professional emailers hired by your ISP? In the past ten years, would you have used an ISP that provided email service but blocked access to Hotmail or your college email account? Competition can and should exist at every level. Just like any market there are different approaches - you can try to fit a particular niche, you can try to outperform the competition, you can try to lock users in. Successful practitioners of the latter approach might be tempted to extend into other levels, but in the long run it might not be a good idea. The best case scenario, for both consumers and competitors, is a natural separation with lots of competition within each level. This is more or less the present case with the Internet, despite many attempts at vertical integration and a paucity of competition in the infrastructure level in most areas. Lots of competition means lots of opportunity for capitalism to do it's magic, providing a wide range of options and generating a lot of wealth. Informal, natural separation means everyone has to stay flexible and we get the benefits of specialization. Adam Smith would totally be on board. This best case scenario is also what a lot of people mean when they talk about Net Neutrality. I think that Google understands all of this. Now what about their partnership with Earthlink to offer WiFi? It's possible they are just following the "throw it up and see if it sticks" approach they are known for. My guess is that they see moves to extend lock-in by infrastructure companies into services as a threat and are demonstrating that they can do the opposite if needed. But I bet they would be perfectly happy with a vibrant WiFi market with lots of players providing the infrastructure so they can provide their services.

Deep Lake Water Cooling: Saving the Earth, one Skyscraper at a Time

In the past we've talked about some things that you can do to make your house more energy efficient. Some things are easy, like putting in Compact Florescent light bulbs, while others are on their way in the near future, like your own personal wind turbine. There's only so much you can do at home, though, and many of us live in large, air-conditioned office buildings. How could a glass-covered skyscraper possibly use less power for cooling in the summer? If you live in Toronto, it's easy - just tie into the Deep Lake Water Cooling System. Deep lake water cooling system in Toronto The system, by Enwave, draws water from Lake Ontario, deep below the surface where it's always a chilly 4 degrees Celsius. The water runs through huge heat exchangers before making its way into the city's normal water supply. A separate cooling loop transports water chilled by the incoming lake water to various buildings in the financial district where it is used in the air conditioning system. Here's a diagram of the system at work. The city is seeing substantial benefits since it tied into the cooling system:
Metro Hall went online with Enwave's Deep Lake Water Cooling system in June 2006. With the addition of this building, energy consumption will be reduced by 1.7 million kilowatt-hours per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 1,915 tonnes annually - equivalent to taking 383 cars off the road.
According to Enwave, the system uses 90% less energy than a traditional air conditioning system and is price-competitive. This is one of those cases where you don't even have to pay a premium to reduce CO2 production. Here's a picture of the gigantic heat exchangers: Deep water cooling heat exchanger Other large Great Lakes cities like Chicago, Cleveland, and Buffalo could take advantage of a system like this as well. Add in a few off-shore wind farms and the Rust Belt could take a real lead in green technology that makes use of the local geography. So what do you say, Cleveland?