Charlie Herd was sitting at the taxi rank waiting to get a fare when an elderly woman approached him.
Would you be interested in a long fare, she asked him.
Thinking the woman meant Melbourne, Charlie was quick to reply: ‘Yes.’
But Charlie was very wrong.
‘I want to go to Darwin and back’, she told him.
The elderly woman was Miss Ada Beal, a wealthy Lorne resident.
He had a wife, and young children. That sort of trip would take months.
Who would take care of his family while he was gone? Not to mention the risks involved in a trip like that. Charlie was a first world war veteran, but he had never been to the outback.
On the other hand, this was the 1930s. It was the time of the great depression, and he could use the money.
I need to check with my wife, he told her.
Three weeks later Charlie, Miss Beal, her friend and their nurse packed up Charlie’s 1928 Hudson convertible and set off on a great adventure.
They drove from Geelong through South Australia passing Oodnatta and then onto Alice Springs.
I came across this great story on the ‘Surf Coast Times’ this weekend, as I drove around the Great Ocean Road.
No doubt, the 1930s was a different time.
Charlie followed the compass north most of the way.
He had no cell phone or google maps. In fact, there weren’t even that many roads back then, only sand dunes, and he used tennis nets to get across them.
They weren’t wearing proper gear either. In most of the photos, Miss Beal is wearing a fur coat…Charlie a suit and tie.
They hunted to eat, and at night they camped.
There were no mechanics or gas stations. How did they refuel?
Well, they relied on the camel train. It was a camel network — imported from Afghanistan — that transported people, fuel, water and supplies through the isolated parts of the country in the interior.
As Charlie’s descendent, Steven Heard, told the Independent:
‘The fuel would be left just beyond the big rock, under the tree. So it all had to be very carefully organised, by sending telegrams ahead. You’re talking central Australia, and in 1930 this was the middle of absolute nowhere.’
Charlie and his passengers were lucky, the car didn’t break down once.
After 12 weeks, 11,0000 km and going through 2,500 litres of petrol they only suffered a punctured wheel.
No one really knows how much Charlie got in exchange for touring the country with Miss Beal, but it was enough to set him up with a garage in Birregurra.
Almost a century later, back in 2008, their descendants re-enacted the trip in a similar car.
We imagine they had an easier ride.
They had a caravan, a tow truck and a four-wheel drive following them.
There are also better services along the way, there are gas stations, hotels, mechanics.
The truth is that transport is much different today, and vehicles have come a long way.
And it will most likely look much different in the next 100 years too…we may even see big changes as soon as in the next five or 10 years.
The truth is that transport is going through a revolution, especially in the energy sector.
Electric vehicles (EV) sales are ramping up. Still, as a percentage, they still make up a small amount of the global fleet.
As we have written before, EV vehicles are facing some challenges though.
For one they need faster charging times and more infrastructure.
Yet electricity is everywhere.
Even during our own mini adventure in the Great Ocean Road it was hard not to notice.
There may not have been too many gas stations…coffee shops around…or even cell phone reception around.
But even in remote farmland, where sign posts pointed the nearest gas station was 30 km away, you could see the electric towers…or even solar panels around.
You could be recharging your vehicle at home while you sleep, as you shop, or even as you drive.
The other is price.
Even with tax incentives, electric vehicles are still expensive compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
Why are electric vehicles more expensive?
Well, much of the cost is the battery.
Take Tesla’s model 3, which was the bestselling EV vehicle in the world last year.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the battery makes up to 40% cost of a Tesla Model 3. The batteries use materials like lithium, cobalt, nickel, aluminium and oxide, which can be expensive to mine.
For EVs to go mainstream and compete with ICE vehicles, they will need to lower the costs, by getting the battery price down.
And, there is already a race to do so.
As you can see below, EV batteries have been getting cheaper over time.
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists
As the Union of Concerned Scientist recently noted:
‘Currently, EVs are relatively expensive to produce, in large part due to the batteries and associated electronics. Today’s battery packs make the cost to manufacture EVs 1.5 to 2.5 times that for manufacturing similarly sized gasoline vehicles. However, such cost differences will decline significantly as the volume of battery production increases and manufacturers use lessons learned from prior vehicle and battery designs. […]
‘Analysts have posited that EVs will effectively compete with conventional gasoline vehicles when the price of battery packs falls to between $125 and $150 per kWh (Howell et al. 2016; Nykvist and Nilsson 2015).’
We are still early in the game, but optimising battery costs will be key for electric vehicles to go mainstream.
And editor Ryan Dinse has identified a great opportunity in this space.
Ryan is the editor of Exponential Stock Investor.
And Ryan will tell you himself all the details in a report tomorrow.
Keep an eye out for it in your inbox.
Editor, Markets & Money
PS: We have a new Markets & Money video update available. This week Harje shares why he thinks Uber could be ‘the biggest investment failure of the decade.’ Watch it here.