The true Tesla that changed perceptions and how we exist day-to-day didn’t create cars, but he did create a wireless transmission of power in the early 1900s. However, as Fate would have it, Edison was better—if not ruthless—about marketing, so I’m stuck at this drafty table in Starbucks in order to power the laptop I’m writing this post on.
So, when I heard that Cota released their air-powered battery at CES, I had to wonder if Nikola’s ghost thumbed his nose at ol’ Thomas Alva.
The good the bad and the wireless
Wireless power has been a fascination of science-fiction, glampers, and anyone who has ever had to scramble to find an outlet moments before dropping a call. Nikola Tesla made wireless power a reality, but the science behind it was too mystical—and the man too eccentric—to encourage societal uptake. And wireless charging has been a standard feature in some of the most recent phone iterations, but true over-the-air charging could be the next evolution in devices—especially wearables.
But with each new technological opportunity comes cost. Irradiating people with hyper-intense radio frequencies, for instance, has long been a deterrent (though there has been no definitive link to cancer in the signals we experience every day). And that’s to say nothing of the environmental cost to create—and ultimately dispose of—the technology.
The true revolution, however, might not be as sexy as instant power all the time. If we could just optimize current batteries to last longer, work better, and get disposed of more sustainably, there wouldn’t be a need to change how we currently power devices.
With any new technology, we have to be realistic about the environmental effects of that technology, as well as the steep drop in the value of legacy devices. Without a robust or sufficient recycling method, even sustainable advancements threaten to stack foreign shores with e-waste. And I am sure that is something Tesla wouldn’t have wanted.