Electric cars or missed opportunities?

If I told you that a very elegant lady waits for her electric car to be charged, undoubtedly everyone would be expecting to see a lady dressed in Prada or Dior next to a Tesla, Polestar or an EQC. However, this is not the case, as the photo illustrating my point shows, and which dates back to…1912.

This seems like a long time ago, yet the rechargeable battery had already been invented nearly 50 years earlier, in 1859 by Gaston Planté and the concept was improved in 1881 by Camille Faure.


In 1884, Thomas Parker, a British inventor was already able to pose next to his “Electric Cart”. Then, in 1900, another Camille, Camille Jenatzy broke the world land speed record with the first automobile surpassing 100km/h. Its name was ‘La Jamais Contente’ (The never Contented) and had 68 horsepower.

At the same time, in the streets of New York, 38% of the automotive market consisted of electric vehicles. This figure is simply astounding, while in 2021, they represent, across the entire planet, just 10million vehicles, out of 1.5 billon (0,000005%) traditional vehicles. 

These facts give… to me at least, a sensation that goes beyond vertigo, an impression of a considerable opportunity missed for humanity. Indeed, it is hard to imagine at what stage the evolution of electric cars would be at if fossil fuels hadn’t taken advantage. Range wouldn’t be a problem and full charging would take no more than a few seconds.

Seref Dogan Erbek

Instead of this, hundreds of millions of deaths, even more illnesses occur each year due to harmful emissions. Our planet is polluted, and the global damage is enormous. For more than a century, car manufacturers have only, and very slowly, improved internal combustion engines. They have lived off their profits without serious investment in new technologies, except for a few timid attempts with hydrogen-powered vehicles. All they had to do was change the shape of the headlights, increase the power a little and convince you, with enormous marketing resources, that you had to change your vehicle…

If electricity had been developed as extensively as fossil fuel engines, we would now have electric airplanes, electric boats and not just electric trains.

Obviously, my statement may seem obvious, in hindsight everyone is smarter and can give lessons. However, this is not the goal.  The real goal for me is to modestly contribute to raise awareness of a biomimetic approach. This approach is by nature, interdisciplinary. The starting point is given by fundamental research which observes, analyses and models the living. The most interesting biological models are then taken up by the engineering sciences which translate them into technical concepts. Finally, entrepreneurs take over and move on to industrial development.

If nature has not created an internal combustion engine for its needs, it is because there are better ways. Electricity is present everywhere, at the level of each atom, each molecule of the universe, including in the neurons and synapses of the reader who is now finishing this text.

So instead, let’s take more inspiration from nature, as we have done for thousands of years, the industrial era has often taken us away from this model.

Let’s all change this state of affairs!

Do you really know the “cost of using” your technology ?

It’s not unusual for the younger generations consider their elders, typically of their parents age, as selfish, having emphasised their personal comfort and favouring a society of unrestrained consumption. All of this by destroying precious natural resources and by creating numerous sources of pollution.

This can’t be denied, just as one can’t deny an awareness, even if slow and overdue, is still underway. Are the youth of today really as righteous as they think? Their way of life has changed, that’s clear, favouring soft mobility, sensible consumption and activities that have a beneficial effect on nature.

It’s here that we find the crux of the debate. The sources of pollution were until now, obvious: cars, planes, central heating etc. all of which are easily identifiable, as well as “culpable” as those which had caused this way of life.

The youth that, some of the time, don’t hesitate to give lessons in morality to the ‘aged’, should perhaps take into consideration other sources of pollution, often exiled or invisible since they are out of sight.

Here are some simple examples I want to mention:

  • Sending 30 emails, with attachments costs as much, in energy as well as pollution as driving a car 100km;
  • Sending at least one less e-mail thanking the sender, over the French population, would equate to removing 4000 Diesel cars from the market per year;
  • 10% of electrical energy in Europe is consumed by datacentres;
  • Watching a streamed film consumes as much as 100amps per hour;
  • Opening (and only this, without scrolling) WhatsApp equates to driving a diesel car 13 metres.

Do you really know the “cost of using” your technology ? Seref Dogan Erbek

I could lengthen this list indefinitely and risks omitting other pertinent factors. For example, that 90% of energy consumed by a smartphone (1.5 billion unit sold per year) is generated outside of their fabrication (the components stretching on average 4 times around the planet) without mentioning the cost of recycling and its impact on health.

The worst of all, however, as it often is, is left for last. Every 2 days, the world’s population produces as much information as it has generated since the dawn of its existence back in 2003. Of course, one can hope that among this mass of data, are the works of the new Plato, Einstein and Proust, it is nevertheless more likely that the majority is composed of spam, smileys, cat videos, mindless articles, moronic and (unfortunately) mundane comments.

So, this is what I think and what I believe: history often repeats itself in an ironic way, the chances are that the current sanctimonious youth will be caught up by their children’s generation with the same grievances and criticisms…compounded by the fact that they can’t deny, this time, they know all too well the impact of their actions.

Container freight rates from Asia to Europe exceed 10.000 USD

During the past year, freight prices have been increasing nonstop and have now hit a record high. Bloomberg has highlighted that the rate to ship a forty-foot container to Rotterdam from Shanghai has jumped by 485% year-on-year, following a 3.1% rise over a week, according to information released by the Drewry World Container Index.

The new price slightly exceeds the threshold of 10,000 USD, reaching 10,174 USD. Between 2016 and 2020, this rate never rose above 3,000 USD.

I also look at the composite index data, which is drawn up by a UK analyst firm and keeps track of a number of major shipping routes worldwide, rose by 2% within a week to 6,257 USD, recording another massive year-on-year growth of 293%.

Neither of these values have been seen in records before, which date back to 2011.

The Maritime Executive reported additional results from Xeneta, another market intelligence firm which collates financial data from shippers. The numbers show similar growth, with the global benchmark recorded as having risen by 34.5% since the beginning of 2021.

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What I’m seeing that rates have increased in all major trade corridors over those five months, with routes between the Far East and Europe taking the lead and witnessing price spikes of more than 50%.

Bloomberg attributes these huge rate increases to the low availability of twenty- and forty-foot containers in comparison to demand.

I can foresee that freight rates will eventually settle back into ‘normal’ levels, but until then, shipping companies will have to endure the uncertainty around when that will happen and find ways to keep up with the logistics costs they are facing in the meantime.