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Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

PostHeaderIcon On the Future of Electric Cars – Far From a Sure Thing?

The way car makers all over the world are scrambling these days to step up their electric game, you would think gas engines are on their last legs and customers are shunning them like a disease. But people who are actually crunching the numbers and looking at the whole phenomenon in a scientific way beg to differ. They say plug-in electric cars might not be the future of transportation like we are led to believe. 

There are a number of factors affecting the long-term situation with electric cars, and unlike the traditional market elements, the adoption by customers is not the most important one. The biggest hurdle against electric cars going truly mainstream, at the moment at least, is technology. It is not exactly a secret that the current battery technology sucks. The best of them are out of juice after 100 miles or so, and they take long, arduous hours to charge up. So save a groundbreaking technological breakthrough, the outlook is pretty bleak for PEVs in terms of convenience. It kind of goes against the whole promise of a personal car which is freedom of movement.

Another important factor is government policies. This has to do with the incentives governments are willing to give EV customers in order to expand their use. So they offer rebates at the time of purchase, tax exemptions, toll waivers, free parking, and exemptions from ferry fees. Or they allow electric cars to have the advantage of using high-occupancy vehicle or bus lanes. Now these could work, but the problem with policies is that they change with the administrations. In fact, several countries have started to remove or phase out existing policies that encourage the purchase of PEVs, because the slow rate of progress in technology and enormous costs have shaken their faith in them. And as the incentives thin out, down goes the sales of PEVs.

As for the role of customer demand for plug-in electric cars, while ephemeral trends may cause a temporary surge in the sales of EVs, the trajectory at the moment is not an upward one. This has to do with the convenience issues of EVs, purchase prices and operational costs between plug-in and gasoline-fueled vehicles. In essence, when you strip away the surface glitz of running an electric vehicle, you often find you have to pay a lot more so that you can get a lot less. Even the most environmentally conscious person has a limit for how much trouble he or she is willing to go through, how much money they are willing to part with, so that they might reduce their carbon footprint by a tiny bit. Of course, the situation can get better as technology improves and cost come down. But as already said, this train is not moving fast enough.

 To reach price parity with gasoline-fueled vehicles, battery packs for plug-in electric vehicles will likely need to decrease to about $100/kilowatt hour (kWh). However, the cost of the battery pack for most manufactures is still more than $200/kWh. Further reductions in cost will need to be realized to fully achieve vehicle price parity with gasoline vehicles.

The question of infrastructure is one that is often overlooked, but it is one that could render the other issues moot. For the electric car to become a global phenomenon it needs, first and foremost, universal access to electricity. That in itself is a huge problem, seeing as huge chunks of the population in countries like India do not have that. But even in more-developed countries, access to charging stations still places limits on PEV adoption. Now, one would argue that governments should invest in expansion of charging stations and other solutions such as battery-swapping stations where you can drop your empty pack and get a fully charged one. But one also wonders if this money and effort would not be better spent on the development of hydrogen infrastructure for fuel-cell vehicle which, thanks to their already mature technology, have none of the practical issues of the plug-in EVs.

In spite of all that is wrong with the EV phenomenon on the whole, it is not likely that the industry or the administrative bodies would give up on it for the simple reason that there doesn’t seem to a viable alternative. Granted, fuel-cell seems like a good idea. But it will always be a toss-up between the two technologies given the amount of work needed to make them work in the real world.

Charts and figures by Melissa Lynes – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

The post On the Future of Electric Cars – Far From a Sure Thing? appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Should We Start buying Chinese Cars Already?

Like it or not, China is on its way to dominate the world’s car market. Well, they’re on their way to take over the whole world, but that’s a subject for another discussion. Here we are interested in cars, and we are worried that buying Chinese might not be an option in the near future. For a lot of people Chinese cars could be the only choice. That is not necessarily an awful thing for the luxury segment, but it could be a nightmare for the affordable classes. 

There is, of course, two sides to this story. On the one hand, we have the typical Chinese cars we all know and at least dislike, if not outrightly hate. Then we have the European and American brands now being built in China with Chinese money. And it’s more pervasive than you think. Most of the Volvos sold in Europe over the next few years will be built in China. That goes for some Chevrolets as well. Some iconic brands like MG have been China-fied for years now. Now this is the good side of the Chinese take over of the auto world.

The not-so-good part is the cars designed and built in China – the stereotypical Chinese cars. You know the type. They have silly names like Geely, FAW, Great Wall, Dong Feng, etc. Their designs are usually a bad copy of some famous European model. The underpinnings are a mishmash of reject parts from Japanese or Korean manufacturers. And the whole thing is put together with what appears to be saliva. These things have not yet invaded Europe in force, but in emerging markets in Asia and South America they have caused quite a stir. You see, They might be crappy cars, but they come at such low prices, and – thanks to China’s other flourishing industries – are equipped with so much kit, buyers looking for something affordable just cannot resist them.

Of course, a few months down the line, when the electronics start going south and bits of trim start falling off, they will come to regret their decision. But by then the Chinese brand has come up with something new, something with a more glitzy exterior and even more standard equipment. This time they have slapped a long warranty on the car, too. So the unsuspecting customer gets fooled again and buys the new model. Those few who have learned their lesson, or at least read some of the chatter about Chinese cars on internet forums, however, will stay clear off these pieces of crap. They understand that a second-hand European or Japanese car is a far superior choice to these terrible products. They know a cheap Chinese car has only a year or two of fairly trouble-free service in it. And they know that that warranty is a joke.

What is a cause of great anxiety here is that these things might become prevalent. These horrendous products have already colonized some emerging markets and it could be only a matter of time before they become a global epidemic. And the reason is politics.

Imagine an increasingly likely scenario where war suddenly breaks out in the Korean peninsula. It doesn’t even have to nuclear, just any old kind of war would do. That means the supply of Hyundais and Kias and other affordable Korean cars is cut off. Japan may not become directly engaged in the conflict, but given their geopolitical situation, they are going to want to hunker down for a while. That means the market cannot rely on the Japanese brands for their excellent small and mid-size models for some time. And of course, a Korean conflict would inevitably put America on a war footing and that would cause all kinds of complications for their car makers.

What is the average Joe looking to buy an affordable car is left with then? A swarm of Chinese cars in all shapes and forms, from superminis to big SUVs, filling the void all over the world with their cheap prices, increasingly attractive looks, and an unprecedented level of features and equipment. And as we know, once the Chinese find a foothold somewhere, they will not relinquish it easily. The auto industry has never seemed so ripe for a Chinese monopoly as today. Let us hope that they would at least improve their game a little bit, learn from the foreign brands they are buying left and right, and give the poor customers a half-decent product.

The post Should We Start buying Chinese Cars Already? appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Car Design in the Electric Age

It must be pretty clear now to everybody who, only a few years ago, dismissed the idea of electric cars going mainstream that that’s where we’re headed. This, and the whole autonomous craze which has come with it, is changing our motoring habits. We’re already adapting new measures in this electric age to cope with the advantages and shortcomings of the new technologies. But how will this monumental change affect the looks of our cars?

Your first thought might be that it won’t – that car design has nothing to do with how the machine works. But if you think a little deeper about it and look at the history of automobile, you realize that design is usually the first thing that changes every time a grand new technology shakes things up in the car world. Just as the advancements we made in aerodynamics changed the looks of our cars, so will autonomy and electrification have a huge impact on it. And the interesting thing is, only a small part of this shift has to do with technical reasons. Most of it is character. The new self-driving EVs need their own identity.

Things didn’t start very promising, design-wise, with green cars. Those of you old enough to remember the very first generations of Toyota Prius will concur that we have come a long way since then. Only a few years ago it was as though car makers had a secret pact that their green cars must look absolutely awful. Perhaps their line of thinking was that people who buy green cars do not care about style and all that, so why should they bother making them pretty? Instead they put the money and effort in technological developments.

But those very technological developments brought about the new age of electric cars. Now that EVs are “cool” and desirable and everybody wants one, it is important how they look. Now, the latest battery and fuel cell EVs that have been announced seem to be moving toward a more conventional design. They want to look virtually identical to the regular fossil fuel models the public is used to. But we don’t think that is going to last. All it takes is for a manufacturer to come up with a unique and special design that sets their product aside, and the other will adapt those trends in a second.

Psychology has always played an important part in car design. Each class of cars, depending on its intended role, has to awaken a certain feeling in you.That is why supercars are all mean and aggressive, GT cars all nice and curvy, and family sedans rather bland and box-like. It is not something that you actively notice. The design of a car affects you on a sub-conscious level, sometime making you walk past a perfectly reasonable model in the showroom to buy the less sensible but somehow more enticing alternative. That is why we reckon it is going to be tricky for designers to come up with trends that would satisfy the green car criteria, i.e. a design that is immediately recognizable as “green”, and give you the fizz at the same time.

Of course, segment-specific design solves some of the issues in the sense that it gives some general guidelines to the designers. Just like the old cars, a supercar has different design elements than a SUV. But the problem of adding that green factor, that extra ingredient you need to mark the modern product aside, that could prove hard to find. All of this means that in all likely hood small changes are not going to cut it. Chances are over the next few years we are going to witness a radical change in car design, especially with the emergence of level 5 autonomous vehicle which will rewrite the entire rule book. One cannot help wondering what future restomoding will be like!

The post Car Design in the Electric Age appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Will Autonomy Kill The Sports Car?

Like it or not, a major change is happening to the automobile. They are fast becoming electrified and capable of driving themselves, and that means a complete overhaul of our relationship with the machine. As a car guy, I welcome the electric revolution with open arms. I love the idea of living in a city where all the cars and trucks and buses are clean and quite and follow the rules unwaveringly. But I am worried about what this will do to the ‘driver’s car’.

The prevailing theory is that the electric revolution will do for the traditional car what the motor car did for the horse. They will become something for recreation, to be enjoyed over the weekend or admired in museums and gatherings and such. And that sounds pleasant enough. You go to work every day of the week in your autonomous EV, and then on the weekend you take the old gas guzzler out for a spin around the country roads. It will cost you a lot, this hobby – sort of like what classic car motoring costs now. And there will probably be extra taxes and fees to worry about. But hey, the joy of hearing that internal combustion noise and the feel of the steering wheel in your hands will be well worth the cost and effort.

That’s all well and good. But what does this change in the way we run and use our cars mean for the sports cars? Is there a place in the future of motoring for the Ferraris and Porsches and Lamborghinis, or even the Miatas and 4Cs, and WRXs?

In other words, will there be a place for a car that’s meant to be driven – even if it is fully electric – on roads littered with self-driving, super intelligent machines? We already know autonomous cars perform better than human drivers in following the rules and regulations. They react better and faster, and we are yet to come across an accident caused by a self-driving car. Well, there was an incident recently involving an autonomous Chevy Bolt. But it wasn’t the machine that was at fault, but the human driver in the other car that hit it. So I’m afraid the answer to the question above might be negative. Rule makers are not going to disregard the order and convenience of a fully automated, electric traffic, just so that a few driving enthusiasts can have their fun.

Now, that sounds rather totalitarian, but that’s often how traffic rules are. The speed limit, for instance, is a despotic regulation needed to lower the risk of incident for everybody, even if it’s not fair to a few good drivers who have good, safe cars.

The point is, you will probably get nowhere making this a freedom of choice issue. But don’t despair. We reckon our current ‘motorsport’ will be the savior of traditional cars and driving habits in the future. We will do away with the championships and stuff like that – since most things of that nature will be transferred to the virtual reality world, anyway – and our race tracks will be turned into clubs for the old-timer motorist to drive to their heart’s content and reminisce about how good they used to have it back in the day…

The electric/autonomous revolution could mean the demise of the sports car. That is a strong possibility. But weirdly, we think it could actually work in favor of supercars. If you think about it, supercars are often terrible to drive and in some case outright dangerous. The fact of the matter is, most supercar owners are interested in one thing above all else: showing off. They want to be seen in these cars, but often hate driving them. The idea of an autonomous supercar is a viable one, seeing as it enables you to sit back, relax, and enjoy feeling superior to all those poor bastards straining their necks to take a look at your car as it pilots itself around the streets of Monaco or wherever is fashionable in the future.

The post Will Autonomy Kill The Sports Car? appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon My Beef with Touchscreen in Cars

These days a great source of anxiety for me, besides the usual culprits such as bills, health, etc., is changing a track on my car’s stereo while I’m driving. We’ve all been there, right? You hear a song you enjoy and you want to rewind it or go back a little, listen to the hook again. This used to be an easy task. You just pressed and held a button. Now though, you have to have the delicate fingers of a violinist and the concentration of a neurosurgeon to accomplish this seemingly trivial job. 

And it all has to do with those damn touchscreens!

Fondling a piece of glass to get the content you want is perfectly fine when the piece in question fits in your palm and you can look at it at a comfortable angle. In fact, it literally was a billion dollar idea that made Apple what it is today and changed the lifestyle of billions of people. The problem arises when, because of some stupid trend, manufacturers put these things everywhere on everything. Hell, even washing machines have a touchscreen control panel now. It’s a wonder they don’t come with a stylus, which they really should, given how difficult it is touching the right button on the damn thing.

That is what causing me headache in the car. We used to get big, chunky dials and knobs and buttons to change tracks and folders and ‘seek’ if we wanted to. But these new cars, they all have ‘infotainment screens‘ which are like clunky, poorly made smartphones that are slow and awkward to use. And we get no alternative. So if you want to change a track you have to slow right down, focus really hard, stop breathing so your hand is steady like a sniper, take your eyes off the road and go for the appropriate touch button, which is of course a different shape in different systems and requires you to do some investigative work before you can even find it.

But don’t think your problems are over now. Oh no. Just as you are about to hit that godforsaken next button you drive over a bump or something, your hand gets jerked, and you touch something else. Now you find yourself in the setup menu or on the navigation screen. And the music is gone. You push some more buttons in the hope that it might magically reappear as abruptly as it vanished, but now you get a message on the screen saying you messed up the firmware or something, and that you need an update. Honest to God, sometimes I just wanna take my hammer and show that stupid piece of glass my way of pushing buttons.

Speed used to be the main cause of death in motor vehicles. But I reckon in a few years accidents as a result of drivers burying their heads in their infotainment systems instead of looking ahead will the number one danger to motorists. Well, either that, or heart attacks brought on by trying to operate those systems. I can rave and rant all I want, but the reality is this trend is not going to go away. If anything, it’s getting even a bigger foothold, with larger and larger screens replacing more and more of the ‘old-fashioned’ buttons and knobs. That Tesla Model 3, have you seen the size of the screen in that thing? That car’s interior is basically a steering wheel, some seats, and a giant screen. That’s it. Even the wipers are now a touch menu for heaven’s sake.

But all is not lost. Car makers are aware of the shortcomings of these touchscreens and the dangers they pose. That is why they are investing so heavily in better voice recognition systems as a mediator. We had in the news a few days ago all 2018 BMWs are going to get Amazon Alexa as standard feature. It’s going to be a whole new battle trying to get that voice thing to work, but at least you won’t have to take your eyes off the road and your hand off the wheel while you do it. You just argue with the voice lady inside your dashboard the way you do with your wife or girlfriend. Only here you may actually win one or two of those arguments.

The post My Beef with Touchscreen in Cars appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon The Brand Game in the Automotive World

A keen observer of the shifting trends in the automotive world will not fail to notice the rapid pace with which car makers are changing these days. Auto makers are becoming increasingly more flexible, adopting radical new ways that only a decade ago would have been unthinkable. This is not optional, of course. It’s a matter of survival. Tradition is dead. You can no longer be set in your ways. Dynamism is all the rage, and a lot of the major auto brands are doing a fairly good job keeping up with the changing tide.

In fact, auto makers dominate the Interbrand‘s Best Global Brand’s ranking, boasting the highest number of brands in the top 100, and having two representatives in the top 10.

That brings us to what I like to call the Brand Game. That is what encapsulates all the improvements a car maker – or any other business for that matter – has to make in order to remain competitive in the age of change. It’s about clarity and purpose and distinction. These are what matter to customers these days, perhaps even more than the traditional qualities like value or cost or the nationality of a brand. Even the question of “image” has changed a lot. What is considered “cool” these days is way different from ten or fifteen years ago. Surveys have shown today’s customers, especially the millennials, are willing to pay more for a brand and, stick with it for longer, if they feel connected to image of that brand. That’s why the clarity of purpose is so important.

So BMW makes the ‘i’ brand, Mercedes goes with EQ, Hyundai launches the Genesis and N sub-brands, and Citroen has the DS brand. Distinction is crucial, and so is the design – the corporate look, if you will. As a matter of fact, design is one of the biggest criteria in the best global brands ranking, and one of the main reasons why Technology and Automotive sectors occupy the top two positions in the index with a combined 31 positions in the top 100 ranking, surpassing the old-world top dogs from Financial Services and Consumer Goods. They have only one player in the top 10 this year: Coca Cola.

Top 5 Sectors:

  1. Technology                   USD $675,239m
  2. Automotive              USD $266,827m
  3. Financial Services       USD $121,145m
  4. Beverages                     USD $107,727m
  5. Retail                             USD $ 96,493m

The really interesting part is that the auto sector has done even better than the tech sector which includes such giants as Google, Apple, and Microsoft. These guys are still at the very top of the chart, but given the kind of products offered by Mercedes-Benz and Toyota – the auto sector’s representatives in the top 10 best global brands this year – compared to the tech services, it has not been too shabby a performance.

Top Performing Sectors:

  • Automotive (16 brands)
  • Technology (15 brands)
  • Financial Services (12 brands)
  • Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (9 brands)

A large part of this result is due to the flexibility auto makers have shown in keeping up with the trends, whether in technology or design. This is the reason cars are getting facelifts so often these days. We will get to the point where we’ll have a new-look version of any given car model at the same rate we get new iPhones every year. The social image is another important factor, like how big an effort a car maker is making in cleaning up their carbon baggage, or how well they treat their workforce and all that. But the most important factor of all is user experience. It’s the overall package. It’s about how you feel using a product or service. All the aforementioned considerations lead you to try a particular brand, but how you connect with it is what makes brand loyalty.

So how do car makers ensure their brand game is “on the lock” in the parlance of the today’s youth who make up tomorrow’s customer base? Well, according to the Intrabrand report it’s all about the change: “Grow, Change, Grow.” It is rather astonishing the rapidity with which auto makers have embraced this model, given this industry’s historical resistance to any meaningful change. The story of the automobile is basically a 100 years of doing pretty much the same thing over and over again. Maybe in some twisted way we ought to thank climate change and the fossil fuel crises for forcing the auto industry to reinvent itself with electric powertains, autonomous technologies and who knows what next.

Interview with James Hoostal, Interbrand’s Automotive Practice Lead

-What are the major criteria for an auto brand to make it into the top ten?

The criteria is the same for auto as all other industry brands:

  1. At least 30% of revenue must come from outside of the brand’s home region.
  2. The brand must have a significant presence in Asia, Europe and North America and have a public profile and awareness across the major world economies.
  3. There must be sufficient publicly available data on the brands financial performance and economic profit must be expected to be positive over the long term, delivering a return above the brand’s cost of capital.

-Does a brand’s history and perceived prestige play a role in its ranking? 

Yes, to a degree although the measurement of brand value goes much deeper. 10 factors that comprise Brand Strength – there are 4 internal and 6 external factors that are part of the formula.  Another measurement is Role of Brand which considers the role the that the brand plays in consumer purchase decisions, relative to its competitors.

-What steps can a given brand take to ensure a higher ranking in the next survey? 

Brands must consider a number of factors to improve their ranking, both internal and external factors.  See the website for details on the criteria and methodology.

-How big an impact a brand’s technological stance have on the results?  

It depends on the industry and the competitors that the brand is facing.  Technology does play a significant role for automakers because of their products….cars are technology masterpieces!

-Environmental image of a brand – is that something you take into account? 

Yes, though it is only one factor of many and the brand valuation is based on a more broad analysis of the brand.

-I can see that customer service plays a big rule on any given’s brands ranking. How about their treatment of their own workforce. Is that of any consequence? 

Yes, absolutely.  A brand’s workforce/employees are a part of the internal measures that are considered.  The company’s/brand’s internal culture, how it treats and manages its employees, has an impact on the valuation.

-Design, technology, value – which, in your opinion, is the most important for the future of a brand? 

This depends on the industry and the competitive landscape a brand faces.  For automotive, all three of these factors impact the future value.  Because of the rapid changes facing the auto industry, technology is a major factor and influencer, how well a brand is embracing and investing in new developments, such as autonomous driving, ride sharing and digital tools for the empowered consumer all play a role in the valuation.

Top 10 brands of 2017:

Rank Brand Sector Brand Value USD (BV)
2017 2017 % change
1 Apple Technology 184,154 3%
2 Google Technology 141,703 6%
3 Microsoft Technology 79,999 10%
4 Coca-Cola Beverages 69,733 -5%
5 Amazon Retail 64,796 29%
6 Samsung Technology 56,249 9%
7 Toyota Automotive 50,291 -6%
8 Facebook Technology 48,188 48%
9 Mercedes-Benz Automotive 47,829 10%
10 IBM Business Services 46,829 -11%

The post The Brand Game in the Automotive World appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Iran’s Emerging Car Market and the French Domination of it

Joint venture Iran

In the aftermath of the 1979 revolution and the war that followed it, Iran, one of the biggest and most ethnically diverse countries in the Middle East, became largely isolated with limited access to the world’s markets. While this self-inflicted malady certainly helped some industries to become self-sufficient, it wreaked havoc with the Iranian car market and sent it into a coma from which it is only starting to wake up. 

And boy is it coming back with a vengeance! Decades of sanctions and government-imposed ban on imports created a huge appetite for modern cars in Iran’s sizable market and when it was finally allowed to breath a little a few years back it just went bonkers. For the last decade or so the Iranian car market has been on a steady rise. All segments, from cheap economy to high-end luxury, seem to be insatiable with sales increasing year after year even amid political turmoil. In fact, Iran’s car market has far surpassed its real estate segment and has proved more steady as well. The latest estimates project a 2 million vehicle market by 2020, and that is based on the current state of affairs with American brands absent from the equation and only a few European players commuting to a half-hearted presence.

That is where the French come in. Today a Peugeot is as much a “national” car in Iran as it is in France. Pretty much the same goes for Renault. It is amazing to realize that a semi-facelifted version of the ancient Renault 5 used to be produced locally in Iran until only a few years ago. The same is true of the Peugeot 405, only it is still being produced under license to this day in its original form as well as in a number of other guises. This “historic” partnership, unencumbered by any sort of rivalry,  has allowed the French automakers to benefit enormously from that vast market.

In recent years with the easing or partial lifting of global sanctions against Iran the market has to some extent opened up to other brands, especially to those from the Far East. Chinese car makers are enjoying a mushroom-like growth in Iran both in imports and local production. And of course, the Koreans are taking home a significant portion of the pie. But that is of no moment to the French, because you see Peugeot and Renault are the pot in which the pie is baked. Granted, with a number of serious players now present in the field they have been forced to step up their game and introduce newer models and higher standards, but their winning cards is their strategic partnership with the two biggest, government-backed car makers in Iran, IKCO and SAIPA.

Today Renault signed a joint venture agreement with the Industrial Development & Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) and PARTO NEGIN NASEH Co, an importer of Renault products in Iran. This will include an engineering and purchasing centre to support the development of local suppliers as well as a plant with an initial production capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year, supplementing Groupe Renault’s existing capacity of 200,000 vehicles a year in the country. In addition to the vehicle plant announced in September 2016, an engine plant is also planned with a capacity of 150,000 units a year. The first products of this plant will be Symbol and new Duster (Renault’s subsidiaries are also having field day), joining Tondar, Tondar pick-up, Sandero and Sandero Stepway. And that is excluding imported Renaults which include pretty much every model they offer in Europe.

So there you have it. In all those years while American car makers couldn’t get near this huge market because of some pointless sanctions, and while German and even Japanese automakers were too cautious to get involved in any meaningful way, the French saw a golden opportunity, swept in and created a base of operations – colonized the market, one could almost say – so that now they are practically running the country’s car industry.

This can prove to be the single most ingenious move in the auto industry when the Iranian car market grows bigger than that of Europe.

The post Iran’s Emerging Car Market and the French Domination of it appeared first on Motorward.

PostHeaderIcon Internal Combustion Is So Yesterday

internal-combustion

If you think about it, it is amazing that we still use fire and metal and gasoline and oil to get about. These days we have cellphones that recognize our faces and finger prints and even measure our heart rate. We have facilities that can smash protons together and then study the debris to reveal the secrets of the universe. We can land a probe on a comet for heaven’s sake. And yet …

In spite of all our advancements in science and technology, the internal combustion engine has stubbornly remained as it was first conceived more than a hundred years ago. Relative to other contemporary inventions, the ICE has remained positively primitive. It is still suck, squeeze, bang and blow which, apart from sounding pornographic, is a lot of faff. You turn a key, or push a button, which engages an electric motor that turns the crank. That action in turn moves the pistons up and down and sets in motion a great numbers of things. The fuel, water and oil pumps get engaged, the valves begin a harmonious dance in which they smash themselves head-first into the cylinder-head multiple times every second, and gears inside the transmission begin clawing at each others’ faces in a bath of oil.

Suffice it to say, it is a wasteful operation.

To be sure, that is not to say that the internal combustion engine was a stupid idea and to shut eyes on all the years of faithful service it has provided us. But there is no getting away from the fact that it does not fit in the equation the way it used to. Having a sleek, modern car that can talk to the satellites and practically drive itself with a gasoline engine is kind of like having an iPhone with a rotary dialer. It all feels very crude for this day and age to make energy by burning stuff and returning its waste back to where we got the stuff in the first place in form of harmful gases.

I should probably point out that this is not some hippy, crazy environmentalist rant about protecting the earth and atmosphere and baby ducks. They have been around long before we came along, and they will continue to be around long after we vanish. It is just telling it like it is. These days we have the technology to come up with simpler, more efficient ways of getting about. What is called for is a strong, unwavering determination to address the issues of those technologies and make them mainstream. A lot of it, of course, falls to the end users to change their habits and embrace the new ways and put up with some initial difficulties in order to reap the enormous benefits of those ways down the line – kind of like the transition they went through switching from flip phones to smartphones.

As for the fate of the internal combustion, it is not likely for it to be consigned to museums and history books just yet. It has a lot of life left in it. Most likely gasoline-powered cars of today will become like horses of yesterday. The rubbish ones will die out; the good ones will be used recreationally. So you will be able to go to work in your electric or hydrogen-powered car (or potato-powered, or air-powered – who knows), and take the old gas guzzler out in the weekends to have fun with. That sounds like a good deal to us.

Photos:Bosch, Wikimedia

The post Internal Combustion Is So Yesterday appeared first on Motorward.

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