At a rate of about a dozen a week, I’m approached with ideas in clean energy/transportation. Here’s an imprecise breakdown of my response to these concepts I’ve received over the last three years:
2%: Crackpots. An attempt to raise money to build a prototype of some that is theoretically impossible, where the principal (I think) actually believes it to be possible. I speak (briefly) with people fairly frequently who are trying to convince me that their idea is the very one that has successfully violated the First or Second Law of Thermodynamics.
3%: Fraud. An attempt to bilk investors out of money to build a prototype of some that the principal knows very well to be theoretically impossible. 3%, 1 out of 33, may sound like a big number given the magnitude of the accusation I’m making, but I think that’s about right. I’ve warned a few people: If you pursue this, you’re very likely to wind up in prison. I’ve found that this is a quick way to make friends. Just kidding; just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. It’s (obviously) the end of the conversation, but it’s something I feel I should say in certain obvious cases.
75%: Bad ideas. Not frauds or crackpots — just ideas that are theoretically possible, but extremely unlikely to succeed, given the idea itself, the market conditions, the environment for financing, the lack of a barrier to competitive entry, an unseasoned team, weak IP protection, etc. Here’s one: a high efficiency electric motor for EVs. The problem is that the efficiency of the motor is almost completely inconsequential to the success of electric transportation. You could show me a motor that was free, whose efficiency was 1.0, and I’d still yawn.
18%: Ideas that I can’t call “bad” but I can’t get excited about, either. Here’s an example: http://et3.com/; it’s a futuristic concept for transportation whose cost/adoption curve is impossible to evaluate.
2%: Really strong ideas.