I am getting a Toyota Prius!

One of the most important aspect of human civilization is that nobody can stop the technological advancements. Technology, the right one, is simply unstoppable. Humans do not change and they most of the time feel that so and so technology cannot become popular. There are very few visionaries who can guess, predict what can happen after a couple of decades. Initially when any technology comes the cost of its implementation as well as usage is always very high. This cost does come down with increased volume.

Let us consider the scenario in solar energy globally. Germany recently on a particular day produced, 85% of its total electricity produced, by Solar. The energy market in Germany runs like a trade market and the rate at which power is bought by distribution companies is based on demand and supply. On that particular day the rate went below zero! California on one day recently produced 67% of its electricity by Solar. US being a very large country will take a long time to reach Germany’s level as a country but it will happen in pockets. India & China are galloping fast towards solar energy in a big way.

If we think about steam engines and trains, initially people were just curious and felt that trains cannot compete with carts pulled by animals. Once the fear in people’s mind reduced, time of travel decreased and more and more people started travelling in trains and rest as they say is history. My first travel to USA was in 1981 and I had paid US $ 1076/ for return journey. Even today we pay hardly more than that in Dollar terms, for return ticket to USA. Why this happened? Because of safer, faster, larger airplanes increased the volume.

Cell phone is another classic example of technology that made it a disruptive device! When I first got my cell in late 90’s the cell phone was quite heavy, almost ugly, and it cost Rs.16/ minute to receive and make calls! In twenty years Cell phones have become sleek, they are much more powerful than computers specs ten years ago! Ten years ago GB was a word very rarely used even in computers. On top of that making calls is now free! Technologically in 20 years cell phones have gone places! Who would have thought of these changes? In the initial phase cell phone was the so called rich person’s toy. The beauty is that land line telephones have been there for more than 100 years doing same basic work that cell phones do, talking to each other. But other than becoming sleeker, land line phones did not change much in technology. Hence the landline phone population is on the wane world over.

Next classic battle that I visualize is between IC engine cars and Electric/Hybrid cars. The usual naysayers are saying that the current car companies are so powerful that they will just not allow this to happen. What are the parameters that will come into picture? Current volume of Electric/Hybrid cars is miniscule and their yearly volumes are nothing to write home about. So what is it that is needed for the picture to reverse, if it does! Fuel costs is one important parameter. Petrol/Diesel costs have come down from highs of US$ 150/ per barrel and have stabilized around US $50/. The original cartel led by Arab countries is finding it difficult to keep high rates due to new people coming in, huge American & Canadian reserves which were not known even ten years back, have suddenly become available. Their cost of production of extracting oil is also coming down. The fear of Petroleum products simply getting exhausted from the world has gone. So fuel cost may not be THE thing that will trouble current cars. But on the other hand, the cost of producing electricity is definitely going down fast. As more and more countries including India go strongly after solar energy, this cost will come down further. The countries which have lot sunlight round the year can become major players in producing next “Petroleum” for cars. Along with this wind energy is also playing a major role. One thing is for sure compared to petroleum products “Sunlight & Wind” are definitely never going to get exhausted. What all this will also do is pollution levels caused by burning Petroleum products will also come down. On top of this when more and more Electric/Hybrid cars get into use pollution levels will further go down.

Largest component of Electric/Hybrid cars is battery pack. Tesla is already building a Giga battery factory in Nevada where they will be able produce battery packs for five hundred thousand cars a year, at naturally very low cost. Already, Tesla is talking of producing cars that will be only slightly more expensive than sedans. Another limitation currently is the distance the car can travel with one charge. In cell phones  already fast charging systems have come, so I am sure it will happen in Electric cars too! So maybe when you have coffee break or wash room break, you can recharge your batteries. Once these cars are reasonably priced people may use such cars the way we use scooters in India, to travel smaller distances. For last hundred years there has been not much improvement in battery storage technology, compared to other fields and same is the case with IC engine cars. I am sure in batteries the break through is just round the corner! If automotive technology had improved as much as electronics, a car would have travelled round the globe in one liter of fuel!

If we summarize this battle, cost of production of fuel (electricity) to charge the electric cars is going down, cost of battery packs is going down ( it is like engine price going down), battery pack capacity will slowly start going up like some Tesla cars go beyond 350 km per charge, pollution improvement is a bonus. On the other side Volvo has already declared that they will not produce diesel cars from 2023 because cost of using technology for pollution compliance will go up exponentially. Volkswagen has already claimed that they will not produce IC engine cars beyond 2030. In India Suzuki & Toyota have joined hands to manufacture hybrid cars for Indian market. Suzuki and Toshiba have joined hands in India to build Lithium Ion battery mega plant. In USA GM and Ford also have big plans for electric cars. BMW i3 model electric car was quite visible when I last travelled to USA. Along with that a lot work is being done by Google and Apple in driverless car. I feel that controlling an electric car with computers will be much easier than IC engine cars! Will humanity be able to stop Electric/Hybrid car technology? Only time will tell. But in the end right technology will win!

So my next car is definitely going to be a Toyota Hybrid Prius! There is small issue of money in the bank but I will generously accept it, if someone wants to gift me a Prius! I will put big donor name sticker on the car! Happy (electric) motoring!

Age with an Open Mind III

After writing the blog “Age with an Open Mind”, I got an idea that I should write a couple of more blogs on the similar theme. The first blog was mainly about “keeping the brain active and sharp”. In second one I have written about “keeping our body active, sharp and flexible.” In the third & final blog in the series I will write about “Keeping our mind active, positive and interactive.”

Human personality is complex and is made up of Brain, Body and Mind! These three aspects are most important but there could be many more aspects which will be subsets of these three aspects. Brain and Body are physical but Mind can be described as a “Virtual Entity” in today’s language. We describe people as “Oh! He/ She is a simple soul”. Or sometimes we say “Oh! He is a tough guy!” All these adjectives like Simple, Tough describe the personality of humans. Simple soul could be six foot tall and a tough guy could be five foot tall! Human personality is a combination these three parameters.

How does the combination affect us? In young age, we are so busy with many things that we don’t care or have time to think about these aspects, we neglect our body but our brain is active. As we age our mind starts behaving differently as we have more time on hand. Our body and brain start aging. There is a saying in Marathi language मन चिंती ते वैरी न चिंती“! It means that bad thoughts can veer so much in our mind, even our worst enemy will never think about us that way.

This is the reason we should think of “minding” our mind. Personality of a human being is formed by what one sees from outside and also what is not seen from outside. In my first two blogs I have written about the “seen” part. If your brain is sharp it reflects in your demeanor. If your body is aging as it should, this is also seen from your fitness levels but your mind’s status may not be “seen” as some of us are good actors and we hide the mind’s aging process to some extent. As and when we retire, relevance of various activities changes for you as well as for others. When you don’t go to office every day, our perspective of time changes. You need to handle time on hand. During working phase, you don’t get time for many things but when you retire, there is plenty of time for everything plus you are left with more than excess time on hand. This needs to be planned well.

In brain and body blogs we discussed their management during retirement. Similarly let us define how to manage our mind.

1.       First and foremost we must understand that we will have more than enough time and others may not have time for you. Get used to it!

2.       Keep connect with people of all age groups.

3.       Try and keep connect keep connect with younger people, try and understand modern things, otherwise connect becomes difficult

4.       Cell phone and internet technologies are part of our day to day life, adapt to them.

5.       Never let the discussion veer towards “in our times”- your time is gone, nobody is interested in it!

6.       By all means join groups where people are your age but be selective to ensure that most are broadminded and positive.

7.       Travel and visit places where you could not go during working days, due to lack of time.

8.       Take up a hobby like reading, painting, writing, bird watching and what have you!

9.       Your day must be planned in such a way that you always have something to look forward to.

10.   There are many other things that can be done but it depends on individuals.

11.       Try and remain financially independent and keep your finances under your control. Your assets are for your children “after both of you go and not before”. Don’t become emotional about it. This gives peace to your mind!

12.       Keep your financial documents properly managed, that gives you peace in mind!

These are some of the things that are going to keep your mind active and positive. Remaining positive and interested in your retired life is going to help you remain healthier. At this age some or the other physical issues are bound to be around. But recovering from ailments is going to be easier by positivity of mind. At this stage there will be deaths of spouse, siblings, friends, close ones, neighbours. Handling deaths is an aspect which needs to be learnt. Share your thoughts with others, don’t just clam up. Your mind comes into picture in such situations. Positive and strong mind is going to help you. Friends, try to keep your mind as busy as you were during your working days. This may not involve physical activity but mental activities.  

God has given us gift of human body and brain. Body is bound to age naturally, but mind is not the God’s gift. It is in our hands to keep it young! If we take special efforts to keep our mind positive, active and agile, quality of our retired life will be much better! Mind is OUR business!