Actually, I have a masters in mechancial engineering (from UMIST, Manchester, U.K.) . I could design and build an engine for your car. But if I made it significantly better than current engines (which I could, just by using some of the publically availble, but patented, details), and I wasn't already working for a car or oil company, I'd be in court in a flash, of course. If I *was* working for such a company, at best, they'd schedule the engine for gradual introduction many years in the future, after they've milked previous ones for all they're worth.
Just as people outside the software industry have little idea just how corrupt it is, people outside the engineering industry don't always realise the sheer scale of the corruption in the automotive manufacturing arena. You know the way microsoft repeatedly invent cool stuff in their research labs, then it very seldom materialises in any of their products? Same thing, but companies producing tangibles are much better at it - they've had much more practice than MS, and there's worldwide protection for physical patents, rather than the only USA-wide protection software patents currently provide.
The I.C. engine is reasonably efficient when run at constant speed. The way it's used in most cars is horrendously inefficient. It's actually more energy-efficient to use an I.C. piston engine running at constant speed, to drive a generator, to then drive electric motors (which themselves aren't all that great at changing speed, it has to be said). Replacing the I.C. engine with a small constant-speed gas turbine yields much better efficiency.
Also, you appear to have mis-read my post. Admittedly, I wasn't clear enough. The patented inventions are only the tip of the iceberg. They're the ones the oil companies are WILLING to phase in, gradually, provided they control their introduction - e.g. amorphous polymer batteries, more efficient catalyst matrices for fuel cells, key bits and pieces required for implementing aforementioned micro-gas-turbines, yada, yada, yada. I'd provide links to the IBM patent server, but it's down right now - the amount of cool stuff that Shell alone has patented is scary. Most of the patented technologies that are useful will eventually be introduced - but very slowly, so as not to rock the boat.
The ownership of the patents means that the oil companies can be sure that THEY are the ones who will control the introduction and, to a large degree, the future directions, of such technologies. Since patents last approx. 20 years, give or take, it is only around now that we are seeing (at least here in europe, dunno about the states), the introduction of petrol-electric hybrid cars, despite the fact all the requisite technological issues were worked out by the mid-80s, so much so that they are standard material in undergrad engineering thermodynamics courses. It's pretty soul-destroying, actually - you spend a few years learning about all these wonderful things humanity could be doing, then get into industry and it's "no, that's not going to happen, we'd make less profits that way.". It's enough to turn you communist, except that people seem to be intrinsically too selfish and corrupt for communism to work on a large scale.
There are possibly many more inventions, which, often with the support of various governments, have been unceremoniously squashed, never even getting as far as a patent server (you do know the U.S. government has extra-ordinary powers to seal a patent until an arbitrary date at the future, in the interests of "national security", don't you?). These rumoured inventions are ones with the potential to collapse the current oil-based world economy.
My advice if you ever come up with something like that - DON'T try to profit from it, release the details far and wide on the internet and as many other channels as possible.
Don't eat yellow snow
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