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Essay: Exploring the Lives and Automotives of Henry Ford and Elon Musk

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Tags: Tesla essays

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The world of ‘motoring’ started when a young boy named Henry Ford born July 30 1863 who grew up on a Michigan farm, at aged 12 (1876) watched a steam engine cart roll along on a Michigan dirt road, as farmers used steam engines for their machines as they were transported using horses but one man came up with the idea of connecting the chain form the engine to the carts wheels, to then the car would roll down the path using only its own power! People especially Henry were amazed. The farmer would then let Fords horse-wagon pass him but Henry jumped out in excitement and asked the farmer many questions on how this cart was created as he was always fascinated by mechanical devices, it was then Henry knew he wanted to spend his time creating self-powered vehicles. Many years later (1908-1927) Henry created what is known as the world’s most famous and first automobile, the ‘Model T’. He went on to sell 15 Million Model T’s around the world in this time and that was then how the Automobile company Ford was created. (Burgan, 2014)

The Model T was almost as big as the creator being the frontline for Fords symbol and advertisement, “the car that motorized America”. At the time the Model T was flexible around the unmade rural roads of the USA, because of the demand for the Model T it was one of the first to force to turn man into machine for the factories as production demand was so high.                  (Design Museum Enterprise Limited, 2009)

“Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it.” – Henry Ford

Henry Ford simply wanted to know how everything worked in life, a pocket watch he received when he was 13, straight away he took it apart to see how it worked. This was his character trait through his whole life ‘how things worked’ but more importantly ‘why things didn’t work’, this kind of mind set is what drove him to lead the legacy of the Automobile using his initiative to change how we travel today. Henry Ford used the past as inspiration to find opportunities for the future, and believed technology was the way to improve people’s lives, not just a source of profit. Technology was his source to harness new ideas and to further democratize the American culture we know today. (Casey, 2011)

It seems that Henry Ford growing up as an Innovator wanted to change an idea or make it better rather than invent it. He wanted to make life easier for the population in general and creating the Model T was his seed to that, all from inspiration growing up whether it was his watch or the farmer with cart, he wanted to combine ideas and stretch them out to their full capability to create something special. His innovation and idea for automotive was all down to making lives easier as I’ll use this to compare to modern day car manufacturer Tesla and owner Elon Musk and to where their initiative is going towards the future for the automobile.

Elon Musk was born in South Africa in the city of Pretoria, he grew up with a wealthy surrounding but when young he was considerably small but a lot smarter than the average kid his age. Bullying was a major factor during his childhood, a “nerd” a some would say but not only was he a bookworm, at the age of 12 he created his first video game selling to a magazine for $500. He used to describe literature and computer programming as a ‘get away’ during his childhood, Elon Musk’s parents got divorced when he was the age of 9 therefore being moved around to different schools never able to truly make friends. Being young he always dreamed of moving to America to something bigger and at age 17 Musk graduated from the Pretoria High School, and rather than stay around in South Africa he then moved straight to Canada where his maternal relatives lived. He then enrolled at Queens University in Kingston, as he studied both Business and Physics whilst also working on a farm in his spare time. He then moved to California having the intention of studying at Stanford but latter decided to start his own company called Zip2. (T., 2012)

Elon Musk is responsible for starting companies like: PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla motors. Everything having one thing in common, future technology to help humanity grow like Henry Ford’s velocity. In 2004 Elon Musk started Tesla Motors his goal only being to produce only electrical cars that could compete with the petrol/diesel powered cars used now. Not only would he produce cars but also come up with new ideas and ways to help save the planet (global warming etc.). Musk has always cared about clean energy, as making cars that didn’t require fossil fuel was a drive of his. Musk didn’t expect the company to survive long as smaller car manufactures don’t really compete with the bigger ones such as Ford, but Tesla has a mission and that mission is still being driven on to this day. The first car made by Tesla was the Tesla Roadster, it was run by one giant battery as drivers would then need to charge the batteries at charging stations but it could do roughly 200 miles before needing a recharge. This set the initiative for the company and since have grown to make better and more affordable models giving a view to the future. (Doeden, 2015)

Henry Ford and Elon Musk both seem to have the same visionaries for the Automobile even though being over 100 years apart, both wanting to make things as easy as possible for the average human being when coming to the subject of transport. Henry Ford turning an idea into a formula to then Elon Musk turning the Formula into a solution. The solution is to help humanity as well as saving the planet with an idea that originally changed the world with Henry Ford’s creation. Both minds set on the same key, but the question is will it work?

Being in its third century of development, Electric vehicle technology is likely to rapidly grow in the coming years. Other electrical vehicles are used quite often such as: Tubes (trains), Golf Buggies, Personal Carriers and Carts. But for vehicles the change is a slower process. The environmental benefits from this could be substantial as zero exhaust emissions, reduced dependant on fossil fuels and a reduction in the carbon footprint on this planet overall making a drastic change. Not only reducing noise and pollution, but also help save oil if the power generated is used from other sources than oil. Using nuclear or an alternative energy can help keep the planet clean and help save global warming, only roughly having 40 years of oil supply left, electric has to be an imminent source as the prices for oil eventually will dramatically increase preventing many people to even drive in the first place. More worldwide problems like global warming which is caused by burning fossil fuels as this effects things like the climate change and rising sea levels. Electric trains are even a popular production but the ‘electric car’ has only just started to be produced by manufactures, as these cars are still being pushed to be ideal for the everyday world from companies like Tesla. There are cars out there like the Toyota Prius that rely on both on petrol and electric but these cars are non-rechargeable therefore end up leading back to oil anyway. In recent years’ companies, have started to create cars using fuel cells only going a step further as these cars are run purely on Hydrogen. The benefit of fuel cells over battery run cars is that fuel cells tend to have much bigger ranges.

Ideas have been created such as: replacing air travel with long distance electric trains or convincing people to use the electric trams more than driving. Getting rid of IC vehicles and then placing them with electric vehicles to then replace petrol pumps with charge-up points using an efficient grid system powered by modern power station especially in cities. Also, in Britain about 30% of our energy is created by electricity or hydro but in France almost 90% of their energy is generated using the same form, if more countries had this sort of efficiency that too would benefit. Back to electric cars the biggest concern people have is the range, how often and for how long would we need to charge our cars? The problem is most people are put off by the range the average electric car does but a study shows that in the USA 50% of all journeys are less than 25 miles, most electric cars can surpass 200 miles with a full charge so changing our initiative on how we use our vehicles would have to come in to play because in reality the figures show it wouldn’t be so bad after all… (James Larminie, 2012)

How do Hydrogen cars work? Firstly, what makes a hydrogen car work is a device called a Fuel Cell, this device converts hydrogen into electricity giving off only heat and water as emissions. With absolutely no pollution fuel cell cars seems like the future in the modern-day error. With such exciting potential, especially towards being eco-friendly and fuel-efficiency. There are problems just like the electric car that are still yet to be answered like ‘where would we get the hydrogen?’ or ‘what’s the expense?’ (Lampton, 2009)

The town I’m from called Lladrindod Wells had a team there called ‘Riversimple’ who created a hydrogen car named the ‘Rasa’ as ‘Tabula Rasa’ means ‘Clean Slate’ in Latin. This is a two-seater network electric car which is also powered by a fuel cell as this car has been clocked to go over 60mph as the car is very light with chassis being made from carbon fibre. “To pursue, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport” – Hugo Spowers                                        Hugo Spowers is the lead in the design and engineering of the car who I luckily had the chance to meet last Summer at ‘The London Motor Show’ in which he explained to me how the car worked and the goals for the company. I also had a good look of the car in person and even had the chance to sit in it for inspiration. He explained to me that the company is partly owned by the government therefore is protected against bigger companies trying to buy them out such as oil businesses. This innovation is proof that the idea works and can be brought forward sooner then we expect. www.riversimple.com

Another thinker to compare to Henry Ford, Elon Musk and the revolution towards electric and hydrogen cars is Thomas Khun. He was born in 1922 in Cincinnati who studied physics at Harvard, graduating in 1943. He revolutionised what science is, he came up with the term ‘Paradigm Shift’ which means a fundamental change in the concepts practises of a scientific discipline. These shifts, which explain a scientific revolution towards the activity of normal science work done in a prevailing framework as Khun says, in other words meaning ‘example’. (Fuller, 2000)

All these thinkers had/have a vision for the future to revolutionise travel or to understand a revolution. As of electric and hydrogen cars these could be a thin string for now as it all comes down to one thing, money. All perfect things have downsides as other companies would lose much money, like a light bulb that never blows? Or the Gillette blade that completely removes hair? The hydrogen car could be another ‘perfect item’ because as someone owns it once they wouldn’t need to buy it again and oil companies would get money from automobiles. A stronger power getting less money is always dangerous, or companies not earning money even if they can create the perfect item.

Cars are rapidly changing in this world with styling, health and safety and fuel economy coming into play. As of car design back in the 1950’s (roughly) cars were designed simply on curves inspired by nature, now to modern day they’re very sharp and aggressive to show dominance on the road (angry look). Now with electric cars coming into play cars now have a very futuristic feel to them whether they’re using crazy looking lights or light profound colours to catch your eye with a smoothness to their shape. Health and safety also plays a massive factor as more and more laws coming into play as this can completely change the development of a design to its original sketch. Lastly, with fuel economy now becoming a problem manufactures must create cars that have a mind of their own whether it’s to save energy or petrol or to combine a petrol engine with a battery powered system or to use lighter materials to save weight. In general car design is changing rapidly as the years go by and it all gets pushed by thinkers like Henry Ford and Elon Musk, in my opinion these thinkers have both been correct in their idea’s as I too believe that soon we’ll have to switch to electric or hydrogen cars to help save the planet and ourselves. I also believe that we need more major impactors like Elon Musk with Tesla to push these idea’s forward quicker and to help convince other car manufactures and the population to switch to these energy sources together.

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