Bob Lutz, the retired General Motors executive who led development of the Chevy Volt, took to the stage at the North American International Auto Show to listen as a hologram of a person portraying the inventor gave advice about the potential for electric vehicles.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Edison, and I assure you we will not let you down,” Lutz told the image.
Thomas Edison is another one of my heroes. I was a weird kid in that I didn’t have any sports heroes, except for briefly Duke Snider from the Brooklyn Dodgers, my heroes were inventors, writers, and such. I think I read a book about Edison before I was in double digits of life. His inventiveness fascinated me even at that early age. I think he is one of the reasons I became an engineer.
But even Tom had a dark side. When his previous assistant Telsa came out with the idea of AC voltage to challenge Edison’s DC voltage, Edison went about in some pretty unscrupulous ways to discredit him. Unlike Edison Telsa, even though he won the AC/DC battle died penniless.
Maybe if Edison had put all that animosity that he had for Telsa toward working on an improved motor for cars, our country might look much different from what it does today. If the electric car had won the Steam/Electric/Combustion engine battle we would not be on the verge of destroying our world with CO2. We would not have sacrificed so many of our young people to maintain our addiction to foreign oil.
It is always interesting to think about alternative histories if “this” happened instead of “that”. Maybe someday Edison at least post-humusly will finally win the battle for powering automobiles. It is time we replaced the one-hundred year old technology of the internal combustion engine. I think Mr. Edison and Mr. Westinghouse would be proud if we replaced it with a much more efficient electric motor.