Personal Drones – Flying “Cars” for All

Great ideas and progress rarely come from well-worn paths. How long have we waited for Flying Cars? Many have tried turning cars into sort of planes, or jet hovering machines.

Now it’s possible. Not by making cars fly, but making drones bigger to carry people.

Drones are main-stream and mature. The industry grappled with air-space and privacy rules and created auto-pilot, stability systems, and backup redundancy. Engineers have been reinvigorated to develop new algorithms and mechanical structures.

All of this is great for personal transport through the skies. With Flying Cars, we were expected to have a recreational pilot license, and although those engineers would have dreamed of auto-pilot, that was unobtainable. Drones have been a key stepping stone, and newfound success of electric vehicles also pave a new path.

I suspect there are 10-20 years to go. The most critical element remaining is battery capacity. There are workarounds and hybrids, but when batteries get a science boost you’ll see a race to market from many key companies.

So stop hoping for Flying Cars, and start saving for your Personal Drone Transport. (And hopefully they find a good name for it)


Geelong has a clean slate

I hope you’re done. Q&A was your last chance to detox from any doom and gloom you had left.

The loss of jobs, particularly at Ford, is not a pleasant experience for retrenched workers, but there’s no changing the past. The fact is Geelong now has a clean slate to dream big, and driverless electric vehicles is a perfect fit for the future of manufacturing.

On Q&A last night, Richard Marles was spot on, describing the automotive industry as one of our most advanced in supporting technical innovation in Australia. But ironically, the industry together has missed the boat and was always on a trajectory with disaster.

I have been watching the industry, since 2010. I have observed the emerging phenomenon of the electric vehicle and the needful but lack of interest by our local automotive industry.  I have realised any automation is to be embraced despite the unpleasant short-term job losses. And still we’re about to miss a huge opportunity.

The public forum is full of emotion, desperation, finger pointing, and frankly ignorance.

Geelong, we have a clean slate.

Kindly watch this video,, it’s all Geelong needs to drop the past and grasp the future, share it with your friends and call up all the politicians you know. It’s been there the whole time, and this vision for Geelong is all we need to forget our sorrows. You won’t understand unless you see the video. We need to act now.

I have covered Electric Vehicles comprehensively in the past, but they’re today’s reality. We need to aim higher. Do Geelong even know anything about driver-less cars?

People are immediately cautious of change, which is why the technology needs to be tested and tested here in Geelong. This will be a great focal point for our retraining efforts. Imagine cheap transport and independence for the elderly and disabled. Cheaper, safer and faster deliveries. Reduced traffic congestion and elimination of traffic lights – no stopping! Cars that drop you off and pick you up will park out of town – what car parking problem? What will we do with all those empty car park spaces in the city? More green plants and al fresco dining?

But most importantly zero road fatalities. If this is the only reason, it’s all we need.

They are legal in California today. What stepping stones will we take to legalise fully driverless cars in Victoria? These massive technology companies will only move next to hospitable markets. Who is talking to Nissan and Tesla about building the next generation of electric driverless vehicles in Geelong? We have been given a clean slate, there are too many exciting opportunities around to waste any more time on self-pity!

Oh and trust me when I say, that’s just the tip of the iceburg – I’m not telling you everything, find out for yourself. Click all the links found in this article for a start, it’s what they’re for.

Hint: There’s more to come from me, including the idea to start a “Manufacturing as a Service” company for Automotive, just like Foxconn does for electronics in China, inviting the Ford/Alcoa workers, their investment, GRIIF investment, outside investors and Tesla. There’s lots more work to do, but it’ll be worth it.

Some more videos you should really watch:

Can we centralise auto-cooling/heating?

Imagine in 10 years, you stop your car (electric), a robot system swaps your depleted battery for a new one and also swaps an LN2 (Liquid Nitrogen) canister. So why would we want a cold canister of LN2? Why not just turn on the old A/C? This idea comes as an opportunity as result of possible changes. 1) Emergence of electric cars, 2) the resultant reduction in parts, 3) The need to conserve energy, 4) Regular stops at a fuel depot.

Even today, we all stop at a servo to pick up fuel, and can potentially implement such as system. An A/C compressor in our car cannot be considered to be as efficient as a domestic reverse cycle A/C unit or an industrial heat pump. So if there was a system to distribute “COLD” and “HOT” rather than making it on the drive, we would save resources and  money. But with today’s system, we already have an excess of heat from the combustion engine.

It’s undeniable that we’ll be moving away from OIL based fuels toward a more efficient electric system. We’re running out of OIL and electricity is so much easier to transmit. Let’s not start on the reasons why Hydrogen is a bad idea – let’s just have one energy transmission system – electricity.

As I’ve said in the past, when you convert to an electric car, you don’t need a radiator, clutch, gearbox, gaskets, timing chains, conrods, transmission fluid, engine oil, large brakes, flywheel, sump, pollution gear, filters, heavy engine block, fuel pump, spark plugs, fuel injectors, valves, …….. Just batteries, a regulator and two or more electric motors. That is of course until you want to stay cool in summer – in an electric car you need a separate motor to run the A/C compressor. Or warm in winter – you now need an electric radiator. Both of which are extra expensive components which drain precious battery power.

My ideal vision for an electric car, is not one that uses dorky inductive paddles to recharge your batteries – that’s so 1900s. The best idea I have seen for this is to battery swap. You can be in and out like an F1 pitstop! I guess fuel stores want you to consider their amazing multi-buy deals – but they’ll have to find a way for you to order from the car 🙂 Of course, you can still recharge at home, but home-charge will never be scalable. As batteries get more efficient and people can store more energy and therefore have faster cars, they’re going to need to recharge faster – something that a household single phase is going to struggle with in the future. Wiring up service depots with more power (and maybe a token solar panel or two) is more likely.

Such a power depot will also be able to operate a small LN2 producing heat pump. It only needs to be run (in Geelong anyway) during summer. As I said at the start, when the futuristic robot changes your batteries, for about $2 it also changes an LN2 canister or for heat a molten salt container? Maybe the hot side of the heat pump can be used to warm up pies 🙂

You would have a simple cat-sized (I panicked)  radiator which would take the LN2 (or heat source) and apply the desired amount of thermal transfer. It would actually cool better than an A/C too. By the way, storing “COLD” in LN2 takes up much less room and weight than storing the energy in a battery to run a small A/C unit in the car. Also, you won’t need to re-gas your A/C every whenever saving you thousands. Where I live, it only gets too hot in summer – so why pay thousands for an A/C unit in your car that you’ll only use a few times a year?

Let me know what you think.

The Combustion Automotive Industry : Efficiency vs Jobs

I’ve been pondering on the benefits of electric cars. Why don’t we build those? They’re so efficient, they use a tiny fraction of the number of parts of a combustion engine (no: radiator, oil, pistons, valves, injectors, fuel pump, filter, diff., …). But I quickly realised, that apart from Oil companies buying out the patents, the car companies are as much to blame for keeping us in the stone age, and more so governments.

You see, it’s all of those parts which keep people in jobs. The automotive industry is huge. What happens when your car breaks down? You give a mechanic work, who makes you pay for a replacement part (one that’ll just break down in another few thousand Ks). It’s this inefficient system that creates economy. Now what politician in their right mind would fire an entire industry and not have a huge backlash?

So the question comes down to Efficiency vs Jobs. Can the efficiencies of an electric car, pay for the lost jobs? I believe that serious thought needs to be made into how such changes can be made. I believe that such jobs will be antiques in the coming years. We do need to find new jobs for these people, so obviously the change has to be gradual.

But what if a new competitor enters the scene with a shiny electric car. Who could that be you say? How about China. Their government has actually announced that they want the country to make electric cars. And they can do it, their communist – it will happen. Now china’s market weakness is their quality control, but the electric cars strength is it’s reliability, a perfect combination.

Soon we may have no choice, and be forced to abandon our combustion ways and embrace the electric car. My next article will actually touch on a possible way to transform the automotive industry without hurting jobs.

PS: If you’re reading this thinking that Hydrogen cars or technology X cars are going to be the winners, you right – they’re all electric.

Personally though, I think battery swap will be the best combination.