Horses, Model T’s, and Motorcycles
I have to admit that I’m at least partly a nerd. I love new technology. Except Apple, I hate Apple. I am not a fan of the letter ‘i’, the company or its products. This goes back to when I was getting my nose rubbed into my buddies brand new Apple II and getting lectures on how much better it was over my Commodore 64. Lets talk about dating yourself! But I do love my 2010 Harley Davidson Road Glide and since Harley Davidson announced that sales are up by over 20% everywhere I should feel pretty good right? But I’m not, instead I’m starting to get some of that same uneasy feeling that I had with the Commodore. I don’t see the combustion engine going away tomorrow (like the Commodore!) but I’m starting to see which way things are going. Between the constant argument over how high the price of gas is going and when should we buy that first hybrid. I’m actually wondering whether or not I’ll be able to get the ‘Glide paid off before gasoline goes away. I am fascinated with all of the new ideas and advances that people are making in transportation from the very minimal bicycle to the latest news from Volvo where they recently set some kind of land speed record for a hybrid highway tractor. If you are also a follower of technology you may have also noticed a definite up-tick in the volume and origin of articles on electric vehicles over the last couple of years including some very good looking motorcycles. These aren’t just hacked together batteries, motor, and a frame but are very well thought out and engineered machines which are usable at least for short distances. They are racing in special classes for electrics all over the world and making impressive progress.
A little while ago I watched several electric bikes race hard at the Isle of Man. Their lap times were only slight off what the petrol bikes were posting. I really feel that we are in an age similar to the time when Henry Ford was just thinking up the production line. During that age there were many different manufacturers hand building vehicles powered by as many different technologies but they were few and very expensive and nobody was getting rid of the their horses. Then Mr Ford came along with cars that first ran on ethanol but were quickly switched over to gasoline when that become the cheaper and more readily available alternative. As soon as Ford’s model ‘T’s started coming off the production line they basically killed the horse and buggy as transportation and all of the competing technologies including steam and electrics. Most motorcycle companies were also swept away by the T wave with the notable exception of two, Harley Davidson and Indian who struggled mightily and hung on. Compare that to the situation now, as back then we now have many companies basically hand building or producing in small runs very expensive electric vehicles that have good but not great performance. They generally don’t have the range or performance most people expect from their car so that only the most early adopters or those trying to make an environmental statement will buy. However, the writing is clearly on the wall, we are just one or two major breakthrough’s away from being able to produce these vehicles, these model ‘T’s competitively (notice I didn’t say cheaply) with comparable performance. Then look out Harley Davidson aka the horse!