Christian Long

Larry Burns: Reinventing the Car

In TED Talks on April 21, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Reflection by MILES W.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Larry Burns:  Reinventing the Car

While I commend Mr. Burns and General Motors for their great focus on the creation of a vehicle with a hydrogen fuel cell, I am struggling to see this as reality.

I can recall watching investigative reports on hydrogen cars that would explode after being driven a certain distance.  Also, these cars were promised to be available in 2010 bothers me. The time is now and I don’t see any cars emitting just water. Simple things like that make these big dreams hard to swallow.

But with these issues in their visions of the future of cars I still appreciate GM’s approach to a greener vehicle and a greener world. But then again, it is pretty crazy to believe that a couple million cars can power the entire United States. And the expense of these cars putting fueling stations all across the country for about 12 billion dollars just seems a little bit too crazy and an unrealistic proposition.

So while I like the premises that Mr. Burns is presenting — like Chris Anderson asked at the conclusion of the talk — is GM truly committed to these new vehicles?

“Yes”, Mr. Burns says, but they are committed for the wrong reasons.

While the focus should be on creating a greener planet, it is revealed that the purpose of this is to expand their business. Where it seems that someone is finally trying to save the planet, another plan ends up falling into the greasy hands of Corporate America. What other explanation could there be for a company who has produced cars like the Hummer. Where GM could focus on improving the technology in the cars they have today and creating a greener car, they appear to be focused solely on fairy-tale dreams of everything running on hydrogen to add a new dimension to their business instead of using proven technologies such as solar panels to power vehicles. If a car can run on true gas, it should definitely be able to run on electricity from the sun. The reason for GM not doing this makes perfect sense makes perfect sense as GM wants to be the first to do something to reap the rewards of a new innovation in technology.

But maybe something has changed in the offices of GM since Mr. Burns gave this talk. Maybe a great economic collapse in our country and a government take over has re-routed a lot of the thinking within the company. This has resulted in the innovations in their energy efficient vehicles going from flex fuel vehicles to hybrids and even the mainly electric Volt coming out in the third quarter of 2010. It’s not a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle like ‘Sequel’ but it’s a step in the right direction and is what the focus of the corporation should be focused on.

If there comes a time where internal combustion engines, hybrids, and electric cars are not keeping “People in Motion”, like GM’s slogan, it will be time to make the change to a different form of energy. But as long as my car can get me from Point A to Point B with a lessened impact on the environment it isn’t time to focus on hydrogen fuel cells.

But when the time comes and the hydrogen is needed, I know that Mr. Burns’ vision will come to fruition and will be able to power vehicles throughout the world.


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