Monday, 9 March 2015

Future Commodore?

This young girl is my hero.

She appears in an advertisement for Holden Commodore which has been on high rotation on all the commercial TV channels recently.  In it a group of children present their designs for the Holden Commodore of the future.

Holden (the Australian arm of General Motors) announced last year that it would stop producing cars in Australia by the end of 2017.  This is, of course, not a popular move with the Australian public and GM are very keen to convince us they have a future here even if it is only virtual.  What better way than to use children?

The children are asked to create pictures of a future Holden Commodore (Holden's flagship vehicle) and then explain them on camera.  I can't find anything online that tells me how genuine this is.  Did each of the children really sit down and draw their imagined car of the future, or is it all staged and scripted?  But let's assume for the sake of argument that these are real juvenile creations.

Not surprisingly, most of the kids have drawn ideas from popular science fiction - a car that goes at 1,000 km/s, a turbo-charged engine, a car that can fly out of traffic.  Some also have science fiction accessories - hypnotic wheel hubs, alien detection devices....

My young heroine is the only one to buck the trend.  Not only does her vehicle come with its own pony, it also appears to have some kind of wind turbine and its engine appears to have been replaced by a rabbit.  Given that there is no trace of any engine, one has to assume that what appear to be flames coming out of the rear of the vehicle are actually a feather duster.

Of course it could be just that she loves animals and is not very interested in cars, but I like to think she knew exactly what she was doing.

All the super-powered vehicles created by the other children, with their blinding speed, multiple capabilities and high-end engineering, have to use a lot of power.  You can see combustible fuels being burnt in enormous quantities in some of them.  In the others, it is not clear what sort of power they use.  What we do know is that speeds of 1,000 km/s and vertical takeoff are supremely power-hungry manoeuvres, while all those hi-tech extras have to be an extra drain on resources.

Only our clever young horse-lover seems to be aware that fossil fuels are rapidly running out, and are in any case doing immense damage to the planet.  We are in the early stages of a rapid transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables, and this is likely to mean we will have to build technologies and economies that are less energy-intensive.

Of course some aspects of her design require a little more development.  I'd like to hear some more detail on her plans for a rabbit-powered motor and I suspect it may have animal-rights hurdles to overcome.  It's also not clear in the drawing (or the video) whether the wind turbine is attached to the car itself or is on a hill behind, generating electricity to power a hidden battery.  The latter would certainly make more sense, but then you need to have stations in place to recharge the battery and current versions of this technology only allow for relatively short journeys.  In our post-carbon world there may also not be enough electricity to go around, and if that's the case rationing may limit the use of the battery anyway.

Which of course is where the horse comes in.  When you are using the battery it can ride on a side platform, conserving its energy and sharing carrots with the rabbit (perhaps the rabbit is not intended to power the car at all and is just there to provide cross-species conversation).  When the battery runs out, wherever that may be, the driver just needs to hitch up the horse and get it to pull the car/cart the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, all the fancy super-powered science fiction cars will be rusting in one of those big barns we read about every now and then.

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