We spent the weekend preparing for Hurricane Sandy...
We loaded up on water, batteries, and food — mostly extra cans of tuna and sardines, dried salami, and some aged Gouda that'll survive for days just sitting on the dining room table. We're typically prepared for emergencies anyway, so we really just topped off our supplies.
All of our laptops, iPads, and cellphones were completely charged as well, and had we needed some extra juice, we could've easily recharged with our car chargers.
Although I think it often goes unnoticed, having the ability to draw power from a car battery to charge such borderline necessities as laptops and cellphones is really an incredible convenience.
While we were fortune to maintain power throughout the storm, in a crunch, I could've easily just sat in my Prius, plugged in my laptop, tethered it to my smartphone, and voilà! — instance office.
Of course, what I find to be an incredible convenience today will one day be looked upon as little more than a relic of the past...
Capitalism is Key
There's one undeniable truth about capitalism: It consistently serves as the perfect catalyst for better mousetraps.
Every time we think we've reached the top of a mountain, some forward-thinking CEO or genius inventor points us in the direction of yet another, higher peak...
This certainly holds true with today's modern cars and trucks.
Just look at the early Model T...
When those things first started rolling off the lines, folks were blown away. And almost overnight, we went from velocipedes and horses to rubber and steel that could move us at speeds of 40 mph.
No, there were no windshield wipers, radios, or driver doors — but at the time, it didn't matter.
We reached new heights, and the world was about to change dramatically.
Of course, it didn't take long for successful capitalists to introduce and profit from new vehicle technologies like window defrosters, anti-lock breaks, and cruise control systems. And even today we continue to see automakers up the ante on what modern vehicles can offer consumers...
Just look at some of the new technologies that will soon be found on highways all across the nation: things like self-parking systems that guide cars into parking spaces with little to no help from the driver, and autonomous cars that actually drive robotically.
No, self-driving cars are not science fiction.
This is really happening.
In fact, just last month the state of California passed a bill that essentially allows for these new autonomous cars to legally operate on state roadways for the purpose of testing.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is actually at the forefront of this technology.
And look at some of the newer cars that are on the roads right now, serving the daily commuting needs of hundreds of thousands of drivers...
The conventional hybrid Prius C, which delivers just over 50 miles per gallon and comes in at just under $19,000 — or the Chevy Volt, which has won numerous technological innovation awards as well as Motor Trend's “Car of the Year” award.
A sleek, powerful car that'll allow you to drive in electric mode or hybrid mode, the Chevy Volt is a far cry from the Model T and everything else we've seen along the way.
But again, this is capitalism.
And while the Chevy Volt truly is a technological marvel, in twenty years it'll be the VHS of electric cars.
Electric Cars Save the Day
Yes, relying on my car battery to provide backup power for my laptop and cellphone is a true convenience.
But as I said earlier, this convenience will seem trivial in twenty years. Because by then, a technology called V2H will likely be standard for most electric cars.
V2H (which is really just a quicker way of saying “vehicle-to-home”) is a capability offered by electric cars that allows drivers to use their vehicles as backup generators for their homes.
Although such capabilities are not yet available in the United States, they are currently being tested and utilized in Japan.
In fact, after Fukushima, emergency teams used hybrid and electric cars from Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota to provide power for makeshift emergency rooms and communications and medical equipment. And some electric car owners were able to use their vehicles to power their homes, keeping their food cold and their lights on.
Of course, I realize it may be difficult to wrap your head around something like this right now...
After all, electric cars on a significant scale have only been available for a couple of years. And it'll likely be around the end of the decade before we see any real headway being made on cost, range, and infrastructure support.
But mark my words: It's coming — and with it, a whole new level of vision and ingenuity.
Click the image below and see some early video footage for yourself:
To a new way of life and a new generation of wealth...
@JeffSiegel on Twitter
Jeff is the managing editor of Energy and Capital and contributing analyst for the Energy Investor, an independent investment research service focusing primarily on stocks in the oil & gas, modern energy and infrastructure markets. He has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC, and Bloomberg Asia, and is the author of the best-selling book, Investing in Renewable Energy: Making Money on Green Chip Stocks. For more on Jeff, go to his editor's page.