I’m going to kill two birds with one stone in this post. I started out researching electric cars and quickly discovered one of the best sources of information on them is Wikipedia. Since this came just after seeing a major attack on Wikipedia the contrast of the two stories is too hard to ignore. If you have time, look at this video “The Truth According to Wikipedia.”
These people think Wikipedia is evil but my experience is just the opposite, I think Wikipedia is very positive and creative, and represents a new paradigm in thinking and transmitting knowledge. I wanted to find out about electric cars and Wikipedia provided a very comprehensive survey of what’s going on with that technology, and had links to more information and related articles. I jumped over to the Encyclopedia Britannica and found zip – well that’s due to the fact that it’s a sales site and doesn’t offer a way research electric cars without paying. I bought the deluxe DVD of the EB over a year ago and it included one year’s access to the online version of EB.
For awhile whenever I looked up something I’d check EB first and then Wikipedia and in all cases I preferred the information I got from Wikipedia, so I stopped using EB. I could check my DVD copy of EB for what it says about electric cars, but I didn’t reinstall it on my new machine and I don’t feel like hunting down the DVD right now. And it will be out of date. In other words, if Andrew Keen and company want an authoritative encyclopedia to compete with Wikipedia it needs to be on the web and free. I can understand EB wanting to make money but can’t it make money like all the other commercial Internet sites through advertising?
Even if you aren’t interested in electric cars, look at the Wikipedia entry for electric car and plug-in hybrid. I found the stub for electric cars at EB and it promises 227 words if you buy the online subscription. Wikipedia is offering thousands of words of info for free. Sure there’s a chance that some of Wikipedia’s facts might be wrong, but I think the group effort looks extremely good. I learned all I needed and wanted to know and more.
The major criticism for Wikipedia is it’s written by amateurs – but the results look very professional to me. I was quickly able to learn about the different types of electric cars, their histories, and the planned models on the drawing boards. For the plug-in hybrid, the technology I’m most interested in, Wikipedia gives continuously updated listing of press reports. Other than finding insider blogs from fanatics about electric cars, I can’t imagine needing more information than what Wikipedia is presenting.
I learned quickly from Wikipedia what kind of electric cars are for sale. The ones I can afford, I don’t want, and the ones I want, I can’t afford or they aren’t in production yet. I also learned that certain types of electric cars have restrictions to driving on roads with 35mph or less speed limits, which is another reason why I don’t want the affordable electric cars. The information was so good at Wikipedia that I don’t even feel the need to search further. Wikipedia is even supplanting the Internet.
My conclusion is I need to wait for the automobile industry to come up with a good solution. Not only that, it looks like it will be a long time before Detroit or Japan offers a $20-25k plug-in hybrid that will be practical for the average driver. It appears for the next few years the best electric cars will compete in price with the more expensive models of Mercedes.
This brings me to the second bird I wanted to kill with this stone. If global warming is the crisis that scientists are saying it is, why hasn’t our government and others around the world jumped in a created a crash program to manufacture low cost plug-in hybrid electric cars? If what scientists are saying about global warming is true it’s far more terrifying than anything Osama bin Laden plans to do, or more threatening than Iraq five years ago. Why is Muslim terrorists more scary than a threat that promises to grind civilization down world-wide?
Politicians who avoid the issue of global warming do so because they fear fighting it will hurt the economy. I would think one major solution to keep the economy stable and fight global warming at the same time would be the development of an ecological car. Plug-in hybrids appears to be the next intermediate solution – they still use gas, but much less, so they will work with the existing infrastructure of gasoline supplied energy stations. Plug-in hybrids will also benefit from people who install solar energy panels on their houses. If you create a Marshal Plan like effort to promote both technologies we could lower our oil consumption and lower our use of coal in electrical production and thus find two major ways to lower our carbon footprint.
I think our leaders are still in the authoritative mindset of people who are attacking Wikipedia, but the world’s population acts more like the human dynamics that create Wikipedia. Car makers still want to sell expensive Encyclopedia Britannica editions. What we need are leaders who can promote solutions to global warming in the same way Wikipedia succeeds.