Last year, Intel’s Atom series of microprocessors did something that no other computer product had done before it. It was the first new, innovative product that was significantly slower than other recent offerings. To the surprise of pretty much the whole industry, Atom-powered netbooks caught on. For the first time, consumers were buying slower computers. Because they were fast enough for most common tasks. And because they were light, cheap and used very little energy.
An Atom car?
This got me thinking. What if there was an ‘Atom car’? Would anyone buy a car that had just enough power to safely drive within the speed limit? A car that was light, used as little gas (electricity? hydrogen?) as possible and was cheap? So basically, a car that lacked any bragging rights and wouldn’t get you chicks?
Boys will be boys?
I think it’s terribly clever that Tesla opted to create a sports car before doing a sedan model. It might just convince people that electric cars can be exciting. But the more important issue is probably that, apparently, we need cars to be exciting. I’m not a psychologist, but it seems that cars are one of the few opportunities left for men to compete for dominance. And we’re hormonally programmed to compete. We want our car to be faster and more expensive than our neighbor’s. Not safer or more fuel-efficient. That’s why even Tesla’s roadster isn’t as energy efficient as it could be. It’s built for speed. Speed means power, and power means energy.
If you look for them, there are a few ‘Atom cars’ out there. Not many, and most of them aren’t very practical yet. But in order to change that, they need to gain demand. Nothing drives innovation like the prospect of financial success. If we want to save the environment, we need to want these cars. But we don’t. These are not tiny little notebook that you surf the web on, these would replace your SUV or your Mustang. You’d be seen driving them. There’s pride to be swallowed. Even I, somewhat of an environmental nut, find that hard to do. Darn hormones…