In the last Technology Quarterly, The Economist had a story about the electric busses in 1907 London. As they tell it, the electric bus had a real chance to beat out the internal combustion engine, and the company only failed because of fraud. The electric technology was in many ways superior to the internal combustion engines which eventually won out. In fact, many people at the time still considered the horse to be the far superior technology. These days, the battle is still between the same three fuels: Electric, Petroleum, and biomass (grass and oats for the horse, corn and grass for cellulosic feedstock today.)
It’s a fun article, but also a cautionary tale for investors looking at alternative modes of transportation today. Technology is not everything when running a business. The business needs to be well run, and its products have to be something that the world is ready to accept.
For instance, after I got over my initial reaction that it was a joke, I now think that the inflatable car is a superior technology. But who is going to buy it?