Friday, October 7, 2011

Electric Vehicles, National Security and Country Fried Steak

As an engineer and keen observer of my surroundings, I have come to the conclusion that the Cracker Barrel Restaurant chain, one of the nations leading purveyors of comfort food, holds the key to breaking our nations dependence on foreign oil.

I believe the day is coming where there will be more electric vehicles on the road than gasoline engine vehicles. Switching from gasoline to electric vehicles will decrease our oil consumption thereby lowering our dependence on foreign oil. The less oil we import, the less power we are giving to rouge states like Venezuela or Iran.

Don't get me wrong, there are still hurdles to overcome (battery technology, manufacturing costs, etc). But that day is coming.

What does Cracker Barrel have to do with this?  Cracker Barrel has the ability to address two of the major limitations of electric vehicles, travel range and refueling time. They can do this by installing public charging stations at each on their locations.

If you have ever travelled this great country via interstate highway, you may have noticed that Cracker Barrels are all located on interstates and are spaced less than 4 hours apart. I learned this years ago when, working as a field service engineer, I often drove alone 8 to 12 hours, to get to a job. At the time there was no XM or Sirius radio so once you got away from a major city your listening options were limited. Someone turned me on to Books on Tape. In 3-4 hours you could have a condensed version of a book read to you by a B level star. Not my first choice for entertainment, but it made the traveling easier.

Cracker Barrel was very clever and would rent you these books on tape. I would pick one up, listen to it and by the time I was done (3-4 hours) would be coming up on the next Cracker Barrel. 15 years ago I could easily navigate from Raleigh to Muscle Shoals or Paducah, bouncing from Cracker Barrel to Cracker Barrel.

One of the major limitations of electric vehicles is range. With current battery technology you can only travel for a few hours before needing to charge the batteries. This makes them practical for local travel, but not so practical for road trips. If each Cracker Barrel installed charging stations, we would have a network of charging stations every 150 to 200 miles along our interstates. This would make road tripping in EV's possible.

Another limitation of electric vehicles is charging time. As drivers of gasoline engine vehicles, we are used to being able to pull into a gas station, fill up our tank and pay before the song that was playing when we pulled into the station ends. Say 3 minutes start to finish.

The best available chargers take 10 to 15 minutes to recharge the batteries in an electric car. That amount of time will take some getting used to. No one that I know will want to stand next to their car in a charging station for 15 minutes waiting for it to charge. But they may like to wander around an old timey Country Store, looking at rocking chairs, stick candy and John Deere paraphernalia. Or better yet, sit down and enjoy the awesomeness that is Grandpa's Country Breakfast, which includes Two Eggs cooked to order with Grits and your choice of Fried Apples or Hashbrown Casserole and Chicken Fried Chicken or Country Fried Steak.

I like solutions that are win - win. This is one of those. Our nation breaks it's dependence on foreign oil, Cracker Barrel gets a whole new set of customers and we all get Country Fried Steak.

1 comment:

  1. Electric vehicles are considered to be eco friendly but there are pros and cons of every technology like electric vehicles runs on batteries and batteries life is not much so its a continuous expense.