The future of powered transport

KneesUp

Guru
I was watching an old episode of James May's 'Cars of the People' the other week (and here I'd like to point out that I liked James May before he was famous) in which our hairy hero discusses the various competing engine power option there were at the dawn of motoring - steam, electric and petrol.

Steam was a known power source, the engines are relatively simple and because it is an external combustion system you can use anything that burns as fuel, but they are inherently inefficient, messy and not very practical because you need to boil the water before you can drive the thing.

Electricity was great in cities, and at one point looked like it might be the way forward, but the lack of range (which, incidentally, was for the best ones about the same as James' BMW i3) weighed heavily against it.

And so, petrol won by virtue of not having that much against it, in those days where we didn't care about pollution. Sure, petrol is volatile and the engines need to be made to pretty exacting tolerances, but those issues were easier to overcome than the issues facing the others.

It seems to me that we are at the same sort of crossroads now - petrol and diesel engines will surely fade away, and the field will be open for battery cars and internal combustion cars using some other fuel.

I can't see the issue of range being solved for battery cars, and the environmental cost of the batteries is high - so I don't think that they will ultimately prevail.

I still have hopes that hydrogen might be used as a fuel - it's volatile, but then so is petrol and we cope with that. The challenges lie in acquiring it - but we could use solar / wind / tide power to generate electricity to crack water (more on that in a bit) I guess? I don't know how viable that is, though. The hydrogen could then be burned, to give water as a by-product - that could be in basically a 'normal' petrol engine modified to burn hydrogen, or any other weird and wonderful way - a turbine (although they have never been that efficient) or a bank of little turbos running on steam - who knows?

Hydrogen also has the advantage of being (relatively) east to refill, thus eliminating the range issues

(The more later thing on splitting water to get hydrogen and oxygen - I guess with all the CO2 we pump out, there is less oxygen in the air than once there was - so could we just vent off the oxygen to restore the balance? It also occurs to me that as the ice cap melts, it might be beneficial to 'store' this water as hydrogen, stored in billions of fuel tanks - and vented oxygen rather than letting it flow into the sea? Thoughts?)

Anyway - as you will have gathered I'm not a scientist. I doubt we'll be driving our own vehicles as a matter of course in 50 years anyway, but how do you think vehicles will be powered by then?

(and as an afterthought, how many gears will be in a standard bike cassette by then?) :-)
 

Smokin Joe

Legendary Member
I can't see the issue of range being solved for battery cars, and the environmental cost of the batteries is high - so I don't think that they will ultimately prevail.
The range of electric cars is improving all the time and will continue to do so. So will the infrastructure needed to provide sufficient recharging.

One the technology becomes mainstream and production levels rise to those of current ICE vehicles they will be considerably cheaper, having fewer parts and needing very little precision engineering.
 
OP
KneesUp

KneesUp

Guru
The range of electric cars is improving all the time and will continue to do so. So will the infrastructure needed to provide sufficient recharging.

One the technology becomes mainstream and production levels rise to those of current ICE vehicles they will be considerably cheaper, having fewer parts and needing very little precision engineering.
It's no quite the range that's the issue, it's what happens when you run out of charge. Last summer we drove down to the South of France with 3 bikes on the back of the car and luggage crammed everywhere else. I drove as sensibly as I could, and over 2,000 miles or so, I averaged 39.8mpg (petrol - ask me how annoyed I was not to have made 40mpg)

When we ran out of fuel, it only took me a few minutes to refill the car to give another 400 miles of range. The issue with electric cars is that the range is smaller (currently - I admit this may change) but also that replenishing the power takes so long. I understand Tesla do a battery swap service that takes not long though.

And the issue with batteries is still that they need rare elements - I seem to remember reading that there may not be enough of those elements on earth for all vehicles to have batteries?
 

Brains

Legendary Member
Location
Greenwich
There is no renewable source, and it still emits Co2
True, but there is a lot of it, and its a lot cleaner.
You can also run it in a converted diesel engine and you can fuel up in the same time as other liquid fuels.

I see electricity as the future for urban vehicles, ie motorbikes and buses.
Cars and Lorries would make more sense to go with LPG
 
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Beebo

Firm and Fruity
Location
Hexleybeef
These things are huge in the Far East and starting to hit Europe. Electric scooters with charging stations around the city where you can swap over your spent battery for a charged one.

View: https://youtu.be/8q5B2NL1fks
Battery swapping is a good idea, all cars should have standard power cells and be easily swapped, like changing a tyre. It could be done in under 5 minutes.
A bit like a gas bbq, you just swap the canister when it is empty.
 
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