You probably remember the Segway. Kamen was quoted in an article in Time upon the Segway’s release that it “will be to the car what the car was to the horse-and-buggy.” No less a force than Kleiner Perkins bought into the hype, making Segway one of its portfolio companies. The Segway hardly revolutionized transportation, and Kamen faded from view (at least from my view) for quite awhile. But, as recent reportage shows, Kamen clearly continues to think big, and is becoming increasingly visible again.
Kamen’s company DEKA Research and Development is now reported to be working on a car called the Revolt, a Think car modified to employ a hybrid-electric vehicle with a Stirling (in lieu of internal combustion) engine that can theoretically be powered by virtually anything that burns.
Meanwhile, Kamen is reported to be hosting visitors to North Dumpling Island, an island he owns off the coast of Connecticut, which he is turning into a showcase of how it’s possible to create a self-sufficient, zero-carbon economy.
Kamen must have tremendous self-confidence, to rebound from what surely must have been painfully discouraging — maybe even humiliating — in the Segway’s failure to achieve its claims, to now sticking his neck out yet again in such exposed ways.
If we are to make real progress on our energy and environmental challenges, especially in a world whose economies are in disarray, we will need courage — some might even say recklessness — from many bold thinkers and doers to overcome long odds and formidable obstacles.
So today, I offer a tip of the hat to Mr. Kamen. I admire his strength of vision. I don’t know that I’d necessarily invest my ever-dwindling personal capital in his ventures, but I hope for his sake and for the planet’s that he’s onto something more substantial this time than he was with the Segway seven years ago.