The Daily Valet. - 2/8/24, Thursday
Thursday, February 8th Edition
By Cory Ohlendorf, Valet. Editor
If you need me, I'll be over here, designing my new "beverage station".
Today’s Big Story
Is It Time for Hydrogen Vehicles?
More and more people (along with automakers) are buying into the alternative technology
There appears to be a shift coming in the world of cars. Electric vehicles are clearly the immediate future. But hydrogen-powered cars seem to be catching up—quick enough to lap today’s EVs before they ever hit critical mass? The outlook is improving after decades of unfulfilled hype—thanks to unprecedented federal support along with increases in private investment.
For the uninitiated, hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity by mixing hydrogen and air—meaning the only byproduct of this electricity production is water vapor. That makes them a promising climate solution; especially as a replacement for noisy, soot-spewing diesel trucks and other heavy industrial equipment.
They also offer a longer driving range than electric vehicle batteries, and refueling is much faster than recharging, so they could be appealing in passenger cars too. In fact, an American auto start-up is now taking pre-orders for a plug-in hybrid passenger vehicle that runs using both a hydrogen fuel-cell and a battery, which it claims has a range of 700+ miles on a single charge. Pretty impressive.
But despite its reputation as an abundant and pollution-free energy source, hydrogen has failed to take off as a fuel for many practical reasons. For starters, it's currently derived mostly from natural gas, which undermines its environmental benefits. And cleaner hydrogen, made from renewables, is expensive to produce. Plus, there's no nationwide distribution network—yet. This fall, the White House awarded $7 billion from the 2021 infrastructure law to establish seven regional hubs for hydrogen production.
And, it seems, that automakers are finally getting behind it as well. BMW is reportedly pivoting away from electric vehicles, and turning its attention to hydrogen fuel cell technology. General Motors and Honda have already started producing fuel cells at a factory near Detroit, to power a new plug-in hybrid fuel cell version of Honda's CR-V crossover utility that’s coming this spring. They'll also go into a line of hydrogen-powered cement mixers, dump trucks, garbage trucks and more that GM is developing with Autocar Industries, a heavy truck manufacturer. Fuel cell vehicles have a long way to go, but they may now finally have the energy to get there.
Jalopnik says you can now get Polestar's Tesla fighter for about the price of a Honda Accord.
America’s Economic Disconnect
We’re reaching the phase where our personal feedback loop is disproportionally affecting our reality
Headlines this week are diving into a striking disconnect between the widely shared pessimism among Americans and measures that show the economy is actually robust. Consumers are spending briskly—behavior that suggests optimism, not retrenchment, reports the Wall Street Journal. Inflation has tempered. Unemployment has been below 4% for 24 straight months, the longest such stretch since the 1960s.
The outlook has puzzled economists, investors and business owners. But press Americans harder, and the immediate economy emerges as only one factor in the gloomy outlook. “Americans feel sour about the economy,” the Journal found, “because their long-term financial security feels fragile and vulnerable to wide-ranging social and political threats.” And high prices aren’t helping. According to CNBC, of Americans who reported feeling like the economy is fair or poor, more than a quarter said it’s because of high inflation. Another 21% blamed high cost of living and 15% said it was because of low wages.
While prices for many goods have stopped rising, they remain higher than before the pandemic, especially for critical things like gasoline, groceries and rent. And the fate of the 2024 presidential election hinging on economic sentiments is widely taken as a given among political operatives. That is shaping up as one of President Biden’s biggest impediments to winning a second term. He’s received little credit so far for an economy that has foiled predictions of a recession and instead grew 3.1% in the past year—far ahead of the pace in 2022.
From 1979 to 2020, productivity grew almost 62% but wages only rose about 23%, according to data from the EPI.
The New Kitchen Feature on the Rise
Beverage stations are a growing trend in home kitchen design for 2024
The National Kitchen and Bath Association has just released its report on the emerging trends for this year, and while “white kitchens” are apparently out, one kitchen design element tops the in-list: the beverage station. I like the sound of this: As someone who likes his coffee in the mornings (and afternoons) and cocktails at night, having a dedicated spot to secure said drinks could be handy.
According to The Takeout, the beauty of this trend is that there’s no one way to design a beverage command center. It might be a small cocktail prep area, or it might just be the landing spot for your favorite seltzers, sodas, and assorted thirst-quenchers. Maybe it’s a dedicated counter area for coffee-making equipment and mugs.
Take a Moment to Appreciate These Photography Awards
They all get awarded at the same time, it seems
Amid all the crazy and often unsettling news, it’s nice now and then to stop and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the world around us. It’s not always easy, of course. But thankfully, there are trained professionals out there—spotting all those interesting things that we often miss when our heads are down, immersed in whatever’s happening on our phone.
First up, the Natural History Museum's prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, which revealed stunning images that detail the profound environments and behaviors of creatures around the world. A stunning image of a young polar bear drifting to sleep on an iceberg, by British amateur photographer Nima Sarikhani, took the top prize.
Then there is Sony’s World Photography Awards, which offers a truly global approach to image-making: This year’s competition garnered 395,000 images from more than 220 countries and is incredibly diverse in subject matter and location. According to Colossal, only the finalists have been announced—overall winners will be announced later this spring. Finally, the winners of the Chartered Institute of Building’s architectural photography competition were just revealed and showcase how intriguing and alive inanimate objects can be. Take a moment to give yourself a moment of zen to appreciate them.
What Is It About Patina?
The next new thing is great, but you can’t beat items that get better with age
There are some things you want brand new and unblemished. Items like iPhones, beds or underwear are best when pulled fresh from their original packaging. But there's something to be said for those items that only get better with age. Perfectly imperfect, they might be a little faded, they could be chipped or scuffed, frayed or peeling. Perhaps they've even been mended or patched over time.
These are the items we love to describe as having “character.” But there's an interesting duality to this character. It might be considered evidence of shortcomings in manufacture and materials, or it could be seen as proof of an item's ability to withstand sustained abuse. It's a reminder that anything worthwhile—be it a garment or watch, a piece of furniture or a human being—has an innate ability to endure. We spoke with a few experts about why patina is so important, to have and to earn.
What’s your choice?