Around a month or so ago, I wrote a piece exploring my hypothesis that my country (in particular, one province within it) was betting on entirely the wrong horse when it comes to the future of energy. For that piece, I tried to keep a fairly level head in my explorations, despite holding strong opinions on the subject matter. As much as I value viewing the future in a pragmatic way, I also understand the human dynamic. When a new status quo technology transitions into being the new dominant infrastructure, you invariably have hundreds, thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people displaced from employment.
The oilsands case for me is an interesting one for a few reasons.
As an environmentally minded citizen, I am in obvious opposition for that reason (leave it in the ground). Though those in favour are all about the good-paying jobs, it’s an inherently flawed argument. Good paying or not, corporations will ALWAYS run with but the absolute minimum amount of labour as is necessary to generate the desired revenue. And if those few jobs can be automated away, then there goes that argument. Even if they get their pipelines and whatever other infrastructure they demand from provincial and federal governments, all but the most technologically skilled engineers will STILL end up on the chopping block. The proverbial square one.
After the recent Canadian federal election, I more or less reiterated the same message. Though this time, I was far less contained in displaying my true feelings. A product of hearing the same old arrogant whining and complaining from the same short-sighted bunch of (generally) boomers, I lost my cool and had to release some steam. It wasn’t the unifying message that this country arguably is in need of. But at the same time, we’re all adults here. Whether or not adults choose to accept the consequences of future change that will almost certainly be out of their control, they will be affected by this change.
You can fight it. You can stay in the delusion until the progress of reality runs you down like a freight train and leaves your life, region and economy in a state of disarray. Or you can acknowledge the dangerously rough waters that lie ahead and start attempting to plan accordingly.
These plans may not help ALL affected by the change, nor may they even turn out to be the right guess (who knows what we can’t foresee in the coming decades). None the less, having a plan is far better than watching the economic, social and (and potentially, civil) fabric erode before your very eyes. Whilst my main focus herein on the Alberta economy, the aforementioned automation transition will affect far more regions than that.
Alberta may be in dire straights now. But they ain’t seen NOTHING yet.
Which brings me to the article I have linked above.
In Long Beach, California, some electric buses can charge along their route without cords or wires.
When a bus reaches the Pine Avenue station, it parks over a special charging pad. While passengers get on and off, the charger transfers energy to a receiver on the bottom of the bus.
Michael Masquelier is CEO of Wave, the company that makes the wireless system in Long Beach.
“We automatically detect that the vehicle’s there, automatically start the charge,” he says. “So it’s completely hands-free and automated.”
Wireless charging systems use what’s known as inductive charging to produce electricity across a magnetic field. Wireless phone chargers and even some electric toothbrushes work in the same way.
As you can see, it’s not a new technology. At very low power, it’s how proximity-based badge and credit card readers work. As noted above, it’s how wireless charging works. I have one of those pads, and as mobile device makers continue to work towards waterproof devices (as opposed to water-resistant), they will become even more commonplace.
Apple is already rumoured to be creating such a device in the iPhone 12. This means that other manufacturers (particularly Android flagships like future Pixels) won’t be far behind. Lack of ports means more opportunities for home branded headphones, wireless dongles and who knows what else.
Either way, the reason why I wrote this is to showcase a demonstration of this technology in action TODAY. If this can be made to work for buses, then it seems plausible that parking spots outfitted with similar tech could well be the future of charging personal EV’s. Maybe not at home, but consider the comfort and security of initiating payments and the other steps of the process without even leaving the vehicle. No current driver, gas OR electric, can boast that convenience.
This leaves semi-trucks and long haul trucking.
This has been typically viewed as a problem in the area of conversion since it’s hard to match the per kilometre (or mile) range of the average transport truck. One way of dealing with this would be swapping out batteries between trips. Another could be charging the battery (possibly with the assistance of plugging in to ensure maximum juice flow into the batteries) while the truck is at a warehouse or depot loading and unloading. The undercarriage of a trailer certainly has enough space to house the required conductors. Whether the time between loading and unloading a given shipment of freight is enough time to gain a proper charge, is questionable. But as these things go, maybe the solution isn’t just to rely on charging at layovers. Maybe a battery swap plus a charge is the answer.
Either way, the point of this is to try and further outline the seemingly obvious. The future is here, in all its fascinations and uncertainties. When it comes to the question of whether you can sustain an economy with heavy fuels only, it is less a question than a countdown.
It is not a matter of if. It is a matter of when.