Sunday, June 22, 2008

John McCain Wants To Sponsor The American Idol of Fuel Innovation

NASA has done it for a better space glove. The Department of Defense has done it for a lighter backpack. Netflix is doing it for a better movie-prediction algorithm. Now John McCain is taking their lead and proposes that we dangle the carrot in front the entire country to solve our energy problems. The first person to develop a car battery that delivers power at 30 percent of current costs gets $300 million. The title of the contest is the "Clean Car Challenge".

There is an odd feeling I get from this patriotic sequestering of innovation. There are very smart folks throughout the auto industry and within the government that could have been charged with accomplishing this task decades ago. As companies migrate from an innovation strategy to a defensive one, they seem to become anathema to changing their domain unless forced to. Kodak, Merrill Lynch and Firestone have experienced this. Is this the natural course of mature business spaces? Will Apple ever become like this in the MP3 player market three decades from now?

Americans are connected to the story of the amateur winning against the odds. It's sad, but if running a contest of this magnitude provides a solution that the car industry has not, then I hope it works.

1 comment:

CLK said...

The battery contest is a great idea - $300M is a sizable chunk of change. The Li technologies have significant capacities but are expensive.

I wonder how many Americans are willing to give up the creature comforts of our automobile just yet.

Check out Nap Pepin's creation - over 100miles per charge -

If I can arrange charging capabilities @ work - my 20 mile one way commute would let me drive a little more traditional electric car w/ 50 miles of range very comfortably.