Saying goodbye to the Internal Combustion Engine
Automologist MAC is not quite ready to say goodbye….
The relentless march of technology would seem to be offering us all sorts of alternatives to the much maligned internal combustion engine. From electric cars and hydrogen fuel cells to maybe fusion cars, mag-lev conveyances and even perpetual-motion cars, it would seem that the days of the good old piston-driven car are numbered. In reports carried by much of the British press over the past few weeks, they see this time to be coming sooner rather than later, with electric cars outnumbering fossil fuel vehicles by 2027. Apart from making me nostalgic about the good times I have had, and hopefully will still have, with my old friend the combustion engine, it got me to thinking if this was possible and just when will the tipping point come?
We have become reliant on the internal combustion engine for about 150 years now, during which it has served us well. The trouble is, though, that even with today’s massive gains in efficiency, it does tend to squander the majority of the energy used as wasted heat. Future advances in materials technology will no doubt give the combustion engine more than a last hurrah, but you can count on some future quantum leap in technological or governmental legislation that will cease the relevance of our piston-thumping gas guzzlers.
Is that day already upon us? In the next few months, VW plans to start showcasing its new MPV that apparently has a range just shy of 500 kilometres. Of course the cost of fuel, its finite availability and the environmental impacts of fossil fuels are accelerating the improvement of EV’s, but range anxiety – the fear that you will not be able to find a plug-stop when you need one due to the short range of the vehicles – is of course one of the major stumbling blocks of most of us ditching the old technology for the new. Currently, the average combustion-powered car can travel about 550 miles between top-up’s whilst its electric counterpart won’t get you much over half of that.
There are many studies that tell you 80 to 90 percent of your normal driving requirements would be met by the range of existing and affordable electric vehicles, and so shouldn’t we all rush out to buy one now. Hang on a minute. Even in the US of A, where the likes of Tesla have a home, there are a mere 10,000 electric car charging points compared to some 115,000 gas stations. This is only the tip of the iceberg, though. You can fill your tank with fuel in a matter of minutes, but getting enough charge into your batteries can take hours, assuming you can find a charging station with compatible plugs and electric phase, and we can generate enough electricity from an already overloaded system that relies on coal.
Yes, I know I have already written about the 800-volt Porsche offering that can get a 70% charge in just 15 minutes, but 800-volt charging stations are about as common as rocking horse poo poo. So, if you are taking a cross country journey at any time, it is reassuring to know that your vehicle can avail itself of the pre-existing gas stations and basically make the trip.
I have no doubt that the day we consign the combustion engine to the history museums is coming fast but I seem to doubt that I will be having to trade in my beloved sports car anytime soon. What do you think?