I recently attended an FIA Formula E race as a VIP guest, which gave me unique access to the pits, crews, and drivers. I’m not sure why, but at the time I was invited, the “E” (standing for “Electric”) never quite hit home and I was expecting something along the lines of what we’ve all come to know and love in traditional auto sports. Well, I was woefully incorrect, but wonderfully surprised. I expected to see Formula cars tearing around the track at breakneck speeds, to hear the deafening whine and hum of high-revving engines and the cacophonous sound of the pits as crews sprang into action during each stop, assessing wear and changing tires, wings and other parts with the efficiency and skill of well-programmed robots. And the smell – who can forget that intoxicating combination of high-octane fuel, exhaust, and burnt rubber? However, rather than the traditional Formula One race I expected, what I got was a front row preview in what is certain to be the evolution of motor sports. No – this was not the in-your-face, brash display of masculine bravado, but rather a refined, sophisticated, and incredibly orchestrated event of sport and science. All done with electricity, computers, technology. Speed isn’t sacrificed, in fact, it is increased. Engineers and drivers are in constant communication, working as one. The thrill is less about the sounds and smell – and all about the storage and management of potential energy - and its eventual explosive, magnificent conversion to kinetic energy and mind-bending acceleration and speed. Sound and feel are replaced by the potential, the bet on the best and most efficient use of engineering, science and physics. It’s batteries, Baby!
After decades of trial and error, empty promises, and even industrial sabotage – EV’s are finally hitting the scene. While the first generation of the current crop of EV entrants have mostly died off (Fiskar anyone?). One notable company, Tesla, has not only survived, but triumphed against all odds and emerged as a global leader in the automotive industry, writ large (don’t get me started on Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode). While some may argue that EV’s aren’t out of the woods yet, Tesla alone puts up a compelling counterpoint given that it’s current market cap of $600 Billion is several times larger than those of the Big 3 auto makers…combined. In fact, EV’s are not just a reality – they’ve become mainstream and a part of everyday life. Let’s just say we’ve come a long way since the first commercially viable EV effort, the Electrobat was introduced in 1894!
America is embracing electric transportation fast and furious. Enter the coffers of the US government with programs like National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program and we are in the throes of the movement to a more cost-effective, cleaner, quieter technology with its primary goal of addressing climate change. Whether the proliferation of EVs will really improve climate change or if our infrastructure is even ready to handle the immense increase in grid demand, is another story. For now, it’s the wave of our future.
As infrastructure designers, developers, builders, and managers, this means a new movement in the telecommunications industry. A new division of technology to be rapidly deployed. Cities with charging stations will be more attractive and have more resources to make their cities shine. Housing developments with charging stations will offer additional features to their occupants and have another way to generate revenue. Shopping centers, airports, parking garages… the list goes on for monetization opportunities. Oh, and they all need to be connected! But what does it take to install a charging station? Land, electricity, backhaul, permitting. Property research, land acquisition, permitting, engineering, construction, program management. Sound familiar? For those of us in the telecommunications industry, this is what we have been doing for the past ~30+ years with wireless mobile telecommunications.
So, pull up your bootstraps, and get ready for an exciting time. As all telecom industry initiatives begin, the movement is underway and we’re behind. Get ready to be involved, get educated and enjoy the ride.
Over MWC in Las Vegas this year, I had the opportunity to ride the Vegas Loop, between the Convention Center and the The Resorts hotel property. The underground high-speed transit system is the brainchild of Elon Musk, the ultimate champion of electric and autonomous vehicles.
The ride mirrored that of an amusement park attraction. The lane was just wide enough for the car and the tunnel was lit, but not by natural light. The Tesla that chauffeured us reached a top speed of only 40mph, though I understand the long-term goal for greater distances is upwards of 100mph! And…autonomous, of course.
Space and time became irrelevant as we sped under the glitz and grit of sin city. Three minutes later we emerged at our destination. Total cost $3.
I’m sold. Ludicrous Electrobat, anyone?