If you're too young to remember the great videotape format competition between Sony's Betamax and JVC's VHS, which drove the film industry crazy, then consider the ongoing mobile operating system wars between Apple's iOS and the Android system. In the private technology sector, early format wars and incompatible systems are par for the course initially, and then eventually resolve down to one or two major players, given the "winner take all" nature of the software business. The user pressure for simplicity, consistency, and standardization, combined with the financial advantages that unitary solutions and economies of scale offer, make these concentrations (not to say oligopolies or monopolies) virtually inevitable.
Interestingly enough, it's only in rare cases that the early entrants and first movers in new tech arenas survive and thrive in the end. As often as not, the pioneers are folded into later-entering, better funded, and more astute players. That's why there are no more IBM laptops. The key to the fast followers' knowledge advantage, of course, is that they have the benefit of seeing and learning from the mistakes of those that went before and plowed the path but stumbled mightily along the way. It's a shame that our elected and appointed representatives can't seem to ever do the same.
In between the start and conclusion of each such disruptive technology cycle, billions of dollars of venture capital funding are wasted supporting the dreams, fantasies, and ultimately futile efforts of the wanna-bes and the also-rans. But dumping tons of dollars down multiple rat holes in search of the one or two winners (the power law) is not only expected today, it's encouraged and taken for granted. Venture capital is a lot like vitamins -- 80 percent of it is regularly pissed away. But the same approach almost never works in government. It's generally all wasted time and money with a lot of downsides.
This "shoot for the moon" venture approach is fine for the private sector, but wasting billions of our tax dollars and -- worse yet -- delaying and frustrating the critical development of new technology systems shouldn't be the model for our government or the performative clowns in Congress. And yes, I realize that this may be frighteningly naïve, as we watch these morons become more venal, hypocritical, and embarrassing every day. Nor does it help that they're forever in the pockets of the various corporations and industry lobbyists who oppose virtually any major change on behalf of whoever's lining their pockets at the moment.
What little hope I have for any kind of productive and rational action by our government representatives in the particular and increasingly important area of increased adoption and utilization of electric vehicles comes from two converging considerations: a) the inescapable and remarkable advantage responsible regulators have to employ the same kind of foresight fast followers in the private sector regularly benefit from, and b) the indisputable fact -- although that idea itself seems oxymoronic today -- that creating, promulgating, and ultimately regulating matters of national concern, such as interstate travel and commerce at the federal level, is one of the clearest and most obvious responsibilities of Congress.
Putting aside the recent proclamations of backward morons like Florida Senator Rick Scott who would like to abolish the entire federal regulatory structure in virtually every area, it's clear that only Congress can regulate the infrastructure for electric vehicles. That includes the manufacture, installation, and deployment of both the on-board vehicle connections and the rapid charging stations needed nationally if we are seriously committed to encouraging the growth of the critical EV industry.
Leaving this responsibility up to the individual states to develop confusing, inconsistent, and often flawed solutions on their own will cost the country countless billions, waste years in the futile process, and dramatically set back the acquisition and use of EVs by millions of consumers. We have a chance to get ahead of this fast-moving wave, and we have the luxury of knowing that it's coming and how to deal with it, but we'll only avoid the typical and traditional government delays, enormous costs, and false starts if we begin immediately to demand action from our congressmen and senators. The only way to get ahead is to get started now.
We need a universally accessible, standardized, and federally-mandated national network of high-speed charging stations deployed at reasonable intervals throughout the U.S. -- probably starting right alongside the interstate highway system -- which will accept the charging cords from any vehicle, and we need it as soon as possible. President Biden's infrastructure bill was going to provide for 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles, but the devil (apart from funding) is still in the details of compatibility and locations.
Reliable, well distributed, and carefully positioned charging stations are essential to addressing drivers' issues around range anxiety, as will the comforting knowledge of knowing just what to expect when you get there in terms of assured, standard connectivity. It's the same kind of comfort that made McDonald's such a success. There was nothing more reassuring than seeing the Golden Arches looming large next to the highway ahead -- the food wasn't great or special, but it was reliably the same everywhere: clean, fast, and filling.
At the same time, EV makers wishing to sell their vehicles here would also be required to adopt a standardized interface and compatible system that would work with the new charging stations. GM says it expects to be 100 percent EV by 2035 and Ford recently said that 50 percent of its vehicles will be electric by 2030, but it would be insane to let these obviously competitive efforts move forward without ongoing direction from the Department of Transportation with regard to required standardization of the various mechanical and software interfaces, so that any available charging station would suffice.
Sadly, as with so many other day-to-day, real-world concerns like health care and gasoline prices, our representatives in Washington don't really appreciate how important cleaner and more cost-effective transportation solutions are becoming and how falling prices are making EVs more affordable. The average adult driver in America drives about 14,000 miles a year. D.C. drivers average only 7,000 miles a year and also have one of the country's best public transportation systems -- not that anyone in Congress uses it. These are people who get chauffeured around.
Advancing national vehicle electrification, with its obvious impacts on critical climate issues, is simply too important and too pressing a concern to be left to the whims, prejudices, and vagaries of the cretins in Congress. We need a continued, aggressive, and consistent effort by the media and the public to press and push our representatives to get out of their own way, stop their infantile posturing and squabbling, and move these very critical programs forward before we squander another crucial opportunity and leave our country far worse off in the future.