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Small Business Management Article

Donít Reinvent the Wheel!


Raymond D. Matkowsky

In the late fifties and through the mid-sixties groceries were packed in paper bags. Then people started to say: You have to stop! We are killing too many trees! Thatís when supermarkets started to pack groceries in plastic bags. Now we are told we have to stop because landfills are inundated with plastic.

You could go back further in time. When railroading became extensive, they would use wood to manufacture ties. It became obvious they were killing too many trees. Their answer they thought was to begin planting new trees, but that didnít work either. No one considered the fact that they were killing trees faster than new ones matured. A great deal of time was wasted until the very old technology (dating back to the Roman Empire) was put to use in the development of concrete ties. The answer to the problem was starring people in the face. However, they thought we needed something new. They never thought of the consequences.

In both instances people had good intentions. But, both were still a mistake. They were a turn in the wrong direction.

Now, California has passed a law banning the sale of gas powered cars by 2035. President Biden is urged to do the same nationally. In my opinion, the switch to electric vehicles will be a similar mistake.

The Internal Combustion Engine

The first internal combustion engine was patented in 1885. The first gasoline powered automobile was designed and patented in 1889. The first Mercedes car was built in 1899. There is a reason why the gasoline engine has been around for 132 years, nothing better has been found to replace it.

Electric Vehicles

The price of an electric vehicle (EV) has been coming down. However, the price of a basic EV is still similar to the price range of a luxury model gas powered car today. This is simply unaffordable for many people and the price is not coming down fast enough.

What is even more of a problem is the battery. The average price, according to Bloomberg is $7,665. This is almost twice the cost of replacing a transmission in a gas powered vehicle.

Even though the car companies warrant the battery for 100,000 miles there is a great deal of small print detailing exceptions. People are concerned that the battery will only last a maximum of 65,000 miles.

One major point to remember is that fast charging stations diminish battery life because they have a tendency to overheat the battery. Carfax warns buyers of the situation. There have been reports of police test EVs failing during high speed chases. Batteries are expected to last for only 500 charging cycles (based on 12,000 miles a year) before they experience complete failure. The average person travels 25 miles a day to work. That is about 31,000 miles a year. The life of the battery does not conform to peopleís driving needs.

Battery recycling may become a problem. The secure placement and limiting chemical spills from the battery in the event of an accident has not received the attention it needs judging from accident reports.

There are two other problems with EVs. No company has developed the technology to manufacture batteries at scale and where are all the generating facilities going to be placed in order to generate the additional electrical load? What fuel are these generating stations going to run on? If it is natural gas, we are talking about the footprint of petroleum manufacturing.

Gasoline Engines

As I mentioned earlier, gasoline engines have been around for more than 132 years. Although improvements are made continuously, each basic engine design now on the market is forty to sixty years old. There is a large knowledge base associated with gas engines.

The problem with gas engines is that they utilize only about 15% of the energy stored in gasoline. The key to getting more efficiency from the engine is temperature. If you raise the running temperature, you will raise the efficiency. The difficulty is that present day oils cannot withstand the temperatures needed. This is even true for modern day synthetic oils.

This is not a new problem that canít be solved. When jet engines became the norm, the airlines found out that oils designed for piston engines did not stand up to the temperatures generated. This is why synthetics were developed. Research needs to concentrate on high temperature oils.

We need to apply this knowledge to gasoline engines. We do not need to develop the wheel. The knowledge of what not to do is there.

If we would increase the efficiency of the gasoline engine to 30%, we would start to approach a large cut to the problems associated with automobile emissions. There are many more ways to modify a carís power train so we obtain more efficiency. Some are costly and the automobile industry is skirmish even about very minor cost increases. This is because at the scale of the industry minor cost increases result in a large dent in their revenues. But, we need to take one step at a time.

Letís Not Start Over Again

In my opinion, this is the direction we should be going in and not trying to develop a whole new technology. We need to think of the consequences, so we donít have to start over in a few years like we did with plastics and paper. We donít have to reinvent the wheel to accomplish a reduction in pollutants.

If you have any further suggestions, do not keep it to yourself. Help your fellow readers!

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions drop me a line at

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