Humans don’t seem to like gravity too much.
From the earliest legends there have been depictions of people strapping makeshift wings to their back and jumping off towers to meet their end. Or in the case of the ancient Greek tale of Icarus, wings made of wax and feathers made to soar precariously over the ocean.
Ever since we evolved enough to imagine what it would be like to overcome our Earth-bound bodies, we’ve been intent on getting off the ground.
We started off simple with trampolines, hot air balloons and small aircraft like blimps. Contraptions that at first, could only go as high as the birds.
But with diligent effort and the ideas of a few creatively-minded geniuses, we were soon able to soar high above the falcons with sleek, aluminium fighter jets and commercial air buses.
And after years of trial, error and sacrifice, we rocketed past all Earthly creatures and ventured into the stars.
Over the past 2,000 years we have come a long way in our transport technology. And as the only constant in our lives is change, the innovation certainly won’t stop here.
Particularly as our population skyrockets, we are constantly seeking innovative solutions to ease the burden of living in such close quarters with each other.
Right now, the obsession of our time is to create a commercially viable flying car. Mostly so the average citizen can live out their dream of knowing what it feels like to have mechanical wings.
And in fact, we’ve actually made more progress in this endeavour than you might think.
In Singapore for example, Volocopter will be trialling autonomous air taxis in the inner city from the second half of 2019. The service will use vehicles that take off and land vertically, hold two people at a time, and can fly up to 30km.
Uber is also conducting a similar endeavour, with air taxis set to be up and running in the US by 2023.
Even now, the Kitty Hawk Flyer (a one-seater flying vehicle) — the creation of Google founder Larry Page — is available for purchase.
And with Japanese companies like SkyDrive working around the clock to be the first to release a top-notch flying car, there has even been talk of one lighting the eternal flame at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
But until our dreams of financially-viable flying cars come to fruition, we’ll have to be content with the burgeoning electric and autonomous car industry.
An industry that, at its core, is dependent on one fundamental, hidden technology.
The power behind our lives
At the heart of all of our transport innovation over the past few decades is the humble battery — the power of the future.
After battery power was discovered in 1780 by Luigi Galvani during a frog dissection (his iron scalpel touched the brass hook the frog was affixed to, making its leg twitch), batteries have been a fundamental feature of our always-connected, on-the-go society.
Existing in many forms, they help to power your car, phone, laptop and watch. Without the battery we would be enslaved to wall outlets, making it very difficult to go anywhere.
Sure, they’ve had their downfalls. We had Samsung’s 3.8 billion exploding battery scandal in 2016 which saw customers sustain serious injuries, cause vehicles and garages to go up in flames and spark numerous lawsuits.
We also had Apple’s #batterygate fiasco last year which resulted in Apple being sued for US$11.9 million for slowing down their devices through software upgrades in order to prolong battery life.
But overall, battery technology is improving exponentially.
Right now battery technology is in a state of flux. We’re shifting from the cumbersome, inefficient batteries of the past into something more fitting for our rapidly paced society.
Elon Musk’s brainchild Tesla is definitely leading the charge on this front. This week alone, Tesla revealed plans to acquire Battery technology company Maxwell Technology for US$218 million.
This move is part of Elon Musk’s plan to make his electric vehicles cheaper, in order to compete with companies like Hyundai, Nissan and Ford who all sell EVs for around $6,000 cheaper.
The deal will also help Tesla batteries to last longer and be more durable, as Maxwell specialises in ultracapacitors — a key component for long battery life.
While Tesla’s products are still out of most consumer’s pay grades, innovations in battery technology will be the key to unlocking the potential of our transport future. And making electric, or perhaps flying vehicles universally available.
Any company that could overcome the hurdles posed by limited battery life and expensive costs could be immensely profitable. Especially as the movement for renewable energy grows in numbers.
So keep an eye on the battery space as it propels us up into the atmosphere and into the tech utopia of tomorrow.
This week in Money Morning
What ever happened to keeping things simple? Look at the investment world today. Everyone is getting smarter. More degrees, more experience. They’re also trying to make money in much harder ways. But as Harje questioned on Monday, is this the best strategy?
To learn more, click here.
As Richard Branson says, if you want to become a millionaire ‘start as a billionaire and then buy an airline’. And indeed he’s right. The airline industry is rife with problems for investors. But as Harje wrote on Tuesday, there may be a pocket in the industry where profits lie.
To read the full story, click here.
You may have heard about Apple’s recent struggles. They aren’t selling as many iPhones as they’d like. Not only is Apple not number one in the mobile phone arena. They’re not even number two or three. But as Harje questioned on Wednesday, is China really to blame?
To read on, click here.
Oftentimes, investing involves some guesswork. You need to make educated predictions about the economic climate and the viability of certain companies. But what if investing didn’t have to be so unpredictable? What if you could inject a large dose of certainty into your stock picks? On Thursday, Harje shows you how.
To read the full article, click here.
Earnings season has hit the ASX again. You can be sure there’ll be the same thrills and spills like last time. Some stocks will beat, meaning they report sales and profit numbers above expectations. Others will miss. And as Harje wrote on Friday, this can have important consequences for your trading.
To learn more, click here.
Until next week,
Editor, Money Weekend
PS: Could lithium be Australia’s next resource boom? Click here to find out.