She never wants an Electric Car
Monday, September 15, 2008 at 11:12AM
Toby Considine in Electric Cars, Markets and Innovation, Security

My daughter explained to me yesterday why she never wants an electric car. She has been reading about Shai Agassi’s and Idan Ofer’s efforts to build an electric car while building up an electric car infrastructure. She resents the “Gillette” (or Polaroid) model: sell them the handle cheap and sell them blades forever. She does not want to be even more dependent upon the power grid. She also mistrusts giving a single player access to her driving information.

Many of today’s twenty-somethings have deep doubts about our information society and its long-term stability. Cultural messengers from Al Gore to Rap to Ron Paul communicate a society whose wheels are ready to fly off. The local food movement is at least as concerned with relying on fragile connections to far away locations as it is with transport costs and produce freshness.

My daughter likes the idea of being able to pay cash for fuel and leave no records. Her generation has few illusions about privacy and a reflexive understanding of her exposure to data mining. She is refusing to use Chrome because of the ever intensifying record keeping it manifests.

Her generation sees the amorality of large institutions in part through the lens of the collapse of the intellectual property deal. The deal has been that by revealing secrets and participating in trade, individuals would get short term government enforced exclusivity. The deal was that to encourage creative works, the author would get a brief exclusive use of the work. That deal has been broken by patent trolls who never develop products, but merely wait to hold for ransom those who do. That deal was broken when Congress, corrupted by liberal application of corporate money, retroactively extended copyright on old works.

Once the deal was broken, the new one-sided deal has been enforced by data mining for IP addresses and enforced by technically illiterate courts. Even when the data mining is done incorrectly, the courts have allowed the RIAA to assert points of law and points of fact by raw assertion, turning personally identifiable information into vulnerability to a shake-down. And so this generation mistrusts data-miners even when their motto is “Do No Evil”.

Power companies are proposing models of central control and data tracking to manage the smart grid. Smart car models are developed around automatic tracking, for billing purposes. Regulations stipulate that privacy concerns are paramount; those privacy rules are used to prohibit homes and businesses from seeing their own data, their own energy use.

Current practice has taught the college age generation about privacy as well. Privacy is an inviolable contract, one that prevents parents paying the bill from even finding out what classes are being taken, yet privacy concerns are tossed out when corporate interests are involved. This year’s Congress proposes that unless campuses track data to support the RIAA, that all federal funding be denied. No student today believes in the enforcement of privacy laws.

She does likes the idea of fuel stills, so she can be self reliant. She would welcome the self charging electric car, on that would let her go off grid and off the records. She mistrusts a rigid reliance on our infrastructure; while happy to use it, she does not want to have to rely on it.

This is the citizen of the future. This is the middle aged consumer of the 2030 challenge. If we want to define successful new energy markets, we had better keep her in mind.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
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