We've known since the Brundtland report and even, in certain expert circles, for much longer, that an ecological crisis is looming and that it stems directly and inherently from the way we manage natural resources collectively. Paradoxically it seems, our energy consumption has increased exponentially ever since, and with it, the urgency to do something. Collectively.
The difficulty that lies behind the notion of collective environmental stewardship is that with large-scale technological innovation and creativity, we have significantly increased the average level of comfort, the duration of life and with these factors, our need for physical mobility. We have more things to want, more people to see, and more places to visit than ever before in the history of humankind. Markets strive, and with this reappropriation of consumption patterns, the coordination of decisions on a global scale have become nothing short of impossible. Today, 25 years and a full generation of innovative products later, it is estimated that the transportation industry accounts for 25-30% of worldwide CO2 emissions.
In previous work on eco-industries and eco-tourism, we have given much thought to how the problem may be solved from within, using tools of economic development and public policy to create the opportunities for a sustainable production system. It is in this spirit that companies like Applus Idiada are trying to develop examples of high-performance, scalable and safe vehicles that have nothing to envy, if not the roar, to the Ferraris.
The 1000-horsepower Volar-e is the world's fastest electric supercar. Commissioned by the EU in order to demonstrate the legitimacy of electric propulsion engines and position EV as the future of transportation, the two-seater stands in a class of its own. Built in just 4 months, the Volar-e was developed as a prototype with no intention of commercialization. A marketing (and engineering) stunt, it feeds on a battery as powerful as 30,000 iPhones. The electric rocket emits no noise, can drive autonomously over 160km, and resist frontal and lateral impacts as securely as any contemporary luxury vehicle.
There is only one Volar-e in the world right now. It sits, comfortably, in a garage 50km out of Barcelona, appearing in events, a tool to promote a new way of thinking about mobility. Meanwhile, others like Rimac (980,000$) Audi E-Tron (150,000$) and Tesla (70,00-91,000$) are rehearsing their act towards mass production. The electric car will not put an end to all of our worries. But it is a step in the right direction. Twenty-five years after the Brundtland report, a ray of hope shines, from la Costa Brava out to the world. By making the concept real, significant extant knowledge was used, and vast amounts of new knowledge were created, from which new concepts will emerge. For that, we have to thank those at the helm of such crazy projects, who with their fascinating stories, tell a tale of possibility, of autonomy, and in a way, of collectivity.
This text is part of a series written in the context of the Fifth edition of the Montreal-Barcelona Summer School on Management of Creativity, organized by Mosaic HEC Montréal and Universitat Barcelona, July 9 to 24, 2013.
Illustration by Studio 923a. Read all posts in the series at blog.fandco.ca/yulbcn.