Friday, January 20, 2006

Alternative fuel technology nothing new for Ford

I always remember one thing my father told me "There are no more original ideas, everything has been thought of before." And you know what? He was right. Today, we talk about alternative fuels and electric vehicles as if they are new technologies. But in fact, some of the earliest "horseless carriages" were electric and steam driven. Henry Ford from day one concentrated on gas powered automobiles and early on was encouraged by the prompting of Thomas Edison to keep up his pursuit of gas powered automobiles. Edison knew what we know now, that the weight of the batteries and the limited range of electric vehicles would always be and issue.
Recently I have been reading a series of books on the life and times of Henry Ford and his companies. And some things were a major surpise to me. One of those things was the fact that even though Henry Ford was a proponent of the Internal Combustion Engine, even he recognized that Petrolium based fuels would, like the dinosours that they are derived from, cease to exist one day. So as early as 1916 Henry Ford started to research and support the use of corn and potato based alcohol fuesl such as Ethanol.
Now, this hit me like a sack of potatoes when I read it (sorry, I know, terrible pun.) But think about this, in 1916 Henry Ford was proposing Bio Fuels as a replacement for Gasoline!

Now I know old Henry had his faults, his ego and his bigotry among them. But it's undeniable that the man was a visionary, if not the genius he billed himself to be. 90 years ago, Ford Motor Company was looking into some of the same technologies that we are revisiting today. And another indisputable fact is that while there were hundreds of auto manufacturers over the years, Ford was one of the earliest and historically the most sucessful and inovative over the long run.

Another one of Henry Ford's projects was production using Soy based products. He envisioned soy based fabrics and early plastics and experimented for many years and invested heavily in Soy plantations. Love him or hate him, the man was a visionary.

And of course now Bill Ford jr, his great grandson, is trying to bring Ford back into the inovation business with some of those same ideas. Do any of you remember the Model U ? It was a concept vehicle from just a few years ago, and relied on some of these same ideas, of recyclable structure and alternative energy.

Just food for though.

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