There’s a lot of talk about electric and hybrid-electric vehicles these days. The mob’s consensus seems to be that in the future we will all be whizzing about in electric cars. Everybody will have maximum torque as soon as the axle thinks about turning and we will all be living in our happy green utopia. I, being contrary and generally argumentative, think that there’s no way in hell this will, or should, every happen, and here’s why.
There are a number of problems with no real end in sight to the electric car, most of which we are pretty much just ignoring. Firstly is infrastructure, but this is going is going to be a problem no matter what new technology we go with. Hopefully the next (electric) Bugatti doesn’t end up shutting off some poor chap’s iron lung by sucking the grid dry.
Next problem, A laptop battery costs $60 and up; the prototype Tesla Roadster had 6,800 of them. While the costs have been cut a little, it’s not like Tesla Motors is turning a profit. Electric cars are currently very expensive to produce. To top it all off, even if there were charge stations everywhere, I wouldn’t want to spend 45 minutes at one. Driving from Winnipeg to Vancouver would normally take around 24 hours, according to Google Maps. However, if your Tesla Roadster has a 244 mile range, and takes 45 minutes to charge, you would spend four and a half hours sitting around, hating yourself for not taking a car that burns something.
This brings me to the next problem with electric cars: the batteries themselves. Those things are heavy. The Tesla Roadster is based on a Lotus Elise, but if you have ever seen footage of the two cars side by side, you wouldn’t think so. The Tesla’s huge battery is capable of taking a Lotus, and making it handle like a normal sports car. That’s not a good thing, the whole point of the Lotus is that, while it may have a low top speed, it will beat anything else in a corner. The Tesla has a low top speed, lower than a VW Rabbit, and won’t beat other sports cars in corners. This isn’t good. To top is all off, during all of this slowness, you don’t even have something nice to listen to. An electric motor makes a grating buzzing sound, or nothing at all. While it is a little cool to see a car go by at 120 kph and hear nothing but tires on the road, it’s not anywhere as cool as a Maserati 4.7L V8, which has actually been proven to make people want to have sex. The electric car will give you a headache if you can hear it, and the Maserati will make you get laid. Not a good trade, methinks.
Basically I want to keep my internal combustion engine. I want my car to go “vroom,” and then fly off into the distance. I’m sending my money to Germany, where VW says that EVs won’t be useful for 35 years and BMW is making huge advances in blowing up liquid hydrogen. By taking some design cues from diesel engines, and adding a new direct injection system, BMW has made the most efficient hydrogen internal combustion engine yet. Finally, a good idea. The new BMW hydrogen combustion engine has managed 42% thermal efficiency. Basically, we all know that diesels are more efficient than gas engines, and this hydrogen engine is more efficient, by 1%, than a diesel. Given, liquid hydrogen has a lower energy density than gasoline, but this proves that it is indeed possible to make a hydrogen powered car with a good range, that still goes “vroom.”
Here’s hoping that in a few years I’ll be filling my Mk IX Volkswagen GTI with some liquid hydrogen, before speeding away to the sound of a turbocharged inline four.