The Stall of Technology

canis

Race Winner
Valued Member
When you look at advancement of certain technology it makes massive leaps in small time spaces, but others takes hundreds of years to actually make a change.

Take you mobile phone, this was a direct descendant of the old valve computers. The first instance of a valve was around 1904, this then grew into semi conductors around 1948 and then from computers in the 60s that took an entire room to run the simplest program to what we have today in a miniature device that has the processing power that just 30 years ago would have classified it as a super computer device that fits into the palm of your hand.

Now lets look at engine technology. The first internal combustion engine was recorded in 1807, with the first cars being commercially produced around 1888 with 4 stroke engines. The first electric car was demonstrated in 1881 and the first commercial available was around 2008.

But my point here is that even if I go and buy a new hyper car tomorrow spending multiple millions on it, the power under the hood is still driven by the same basics that were in the first IC Engine in 1807 with improvements made but no real change to the idea beneath the bonnet. So with some tech you can have a complete revolution of the technology within 40 years throwing away the old ideas and replacing them with a new idea, yet in over 200 years no-one has changed the way we propel our vehicles by any major way (yes, we have gone from 2 stroke to 4 stroke to V engines, ERS, better fuel economy etc etc but at the end of the day we are still blowing up fossils to push us forward faster than before). Even with an electric car we are still burning energy to push things in a circular motion, it is just the route from source to movement is a little longer and stored in batteries along the way.

So does anyone know what we are waiting for? Is there a better way out there just waiting to be found, or is the current engine the best we can do and we just have to find different way to power it when the fossil fuels run out?
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
The two biggest factors in technological change are War and Finance.

In the motor trade their hasn't been the financial pressure to change from an ICE engine. Recently however, Tesla Motors are starting to turn heads. A number of companies are actually putting a great deal of research into electric vehicles. To my knowledge I believe BMW are the furthest ahead in this field but they aren't the only ones in the game.

Why do you think for example, Jaguar are joining Formula E in 2017?
 

canis

Race Winner
Valued Member
cider_and_toast I get what you mean about investment in electric cars, but once again they are not really a new idea and are over 100 years old but have been waiting until someone made them commercially viable.

I also get that the factors in tech change are driven by financial need or war, the modern computer would have been years away if it had not been for the work of certain large companies with the Nazi party to help them with certain lists that needed to be maintained.

I guess the fact that most wars in the last part of the last century and first part of this which have involved the western countries have been about fossil fuels and the rights to exploit them. This kind of denies a need to move away from technology reliant on the reason for war.

I guess that diverts my question to being is the reliance on fossil fuels (which to be honest we still are in a massive way) the reason why we haven't had to explore other technology? Or are we not exploring the other technology because it is too far away from our current scientific reach?
 

Olivier

Race Winner
I'd say the former. The powers that be haven't allowed free-thinkers and disruptors move ahead with technology advancement. Tesla is showing the way but it has to overcome obstacles every step of the way (they can't even sell their cars at the show rooms, just show them). In North America the climate change deniers are fueled with funding and support from the incumbents that want to keep the status-quo.
 

KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
Certainly an interesting and worthwhile question. And one that's been asked many times over by many different people without a firm answer to satisfy them.

It's impossible to deny that the Corporations involved with the exploration, extraction, and production of Fossil Fuels hold enormous sway with the lawmakers who have ensured that this resource remained unchallenged for so long. And it's also hard to say that we're not getting a pretty cheap and efficient end result. When you consider the current price of gas it's understandable why the world is happy to guzzle away.

I find it hard to imagine a roadway in my lifetime devoid of combustion engines with smart vehicles navigating neatly to their desired GPS coordinates. It's becoming more likely that the super-rich will instead take to the skies with small personal aircraft. And when you think about it, it kind of makes a lot more sense to have something navigate above the commotion of the streets then to build something capable of dealing with the endless array of road hazards.
 

canis

Race Winner
Valued Member
KekeTheKing You say that the current price of gas is a driving factor to keep us all using it, and for the US I would agree with you (I love driving for 9 to 10 hours over two days down the Florida coast between Orlando and Key West and then back again without considering the cost of the fuel used), but consider that in the UK and much of Europe a tank costs somewhere in the region of $90 the argument is much the other way. I would say our household is probably a low mileage household in the UK and we will probably go through 2 to 3 tanks a week for commuting purposes reasonably efficient diesel cars (about 100 miles a day per person for commuting to and from work) that suddenly puts the cost for a married couple with jobs to around $700-$800 per month just to get to and from work.

That is a fair chunk of the average disposable income for people.
 

KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
Wow, I knew gas was considerably more expensive in Europe but I was unaware the spread was so massive at the moment.

Poking around a bit it seems that much of that is due to taxes. According to a few sites I saw, a gallon of gas in the UK costs about 6 dollars.

You want to see a rapid change in technology, less pollution, and fewer cars on the road. Make gas 6 dollars a gallon in the US.
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
The problem with hydrogen is that you have to make it and the energy needed to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen in water is probably more than the energy you get from the hydrogen you produce (I am open to correction on this).

For the future of personal transport search YouTube for the US government WASP project or the "Flying Dustbin". Still uses fossil fuels though...
 

Greenlantern101

Super Hero And All Round Good Guy
Contributor
The hydrogen can be produced by renewable energy as it is an entirely electric process. It is the only true way of getting clean power. Ultimately once fossil fuels have ran out we will all be using hydrogen to get around our desert planet and power our industrial atmospheric carbon dioxide collectors.
 

Bill Boddy

Professional layabout
Contributor
The problem is that assuming everything is perfect you need to put as much energy into getting the hydrogen from water as you get from burning it. Alternatively you can go on the internet and find out many methods of using water as a fuel.
 

TR

Rookie
The hydrogen can be produced by renewable energy as it is an entirely electric process. It is the only true way of getting clean power. Ultimately once fossil fuels have ran out we will all be using hydrogen to get around our desert planet and power our industrial atmospheric carbon dioxide collectors.
There are many ways of converting electric energy to storable/transportable potential energy. Why are you convinced that highly unstable molecular hydrogen is THE way to go?
 

TR

Rookie
Even with an electric car we are still burning energy to push things in a circular motion, it is just the route from source to movement is a little longer and stored in batteries along the way.
That is like saying that computers have not chanced much since their first mechanical versions, since they are still effectively Turing machines.

Over the past two/three decades battery technology has seen a similarly exponential development to computers. This has led to the arrival small powerful portable electronic devices such as smart phones. It is also one of the main factors in electric cars becoming a viable technology for transport (in urban environments).
 

Greenlantern101

Super Hero And All Round Good Guy
Contributor
TR I assume you are talking about batteries? it's just as canis said some technology progresses fast others slow. Batteries are very much in the slow bracket. Batteries have changed very little since the lead acid versions. You talk of small mobile ones yet the battery life is still shit, most of the extra life is from more efficient screens etc. Hydrogen seems like an easy simply way of transporting potential energy.

I don't see the unstable argument being relevant. Its just a design process to make the storage safe. Petrol isn't exactly a safe liquid yet we are all happy to drive very fast with a big tank full of the stuff, because the tanks are 'safe'
 
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FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
I might have mentioned this before but I believe liquified air could be an excellent power source. Imagine you put solar panles up in countries in the Middle East and use the electricity generated to compress and liquify air. Once the air is liquid it can then be shipped, in a similar way to liquified petroleum gas currently is.

Once you get it to where you want to use it you can expand the air back to a gas and use it to run turbines to generate electricity, in the same way power stations currently use steam. I'm not sure whether you could use it to power a car, maybe to run turbines to generate electricity for motors.

BTW, this already happens in some power stations in Scandinavia where they compress air at times of low power consumption and then use it for generation at peak times.
 

vintly

Mostly bacon
Premium Contributor
I have no idea what you're talking about FB, but I Like It.

* googles 'liquified air'

** request useful links
 
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