Last week I asked who built a “wonder battery” for cars and
said it would put the petrol cars out of business. Clue: it was the beginning of
the 20th century. It was Thomas Edison, and who knows, he might just be correct,
but a long time after he thought it would happen.
So to this week. A transverse engine and front wheel drive immediately brings
Sir Alex Issigonis’ Mini to mind. This came out in 1959 and stunned the world.
But he was not the first with this concept. In what and when did this first
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Some differences over EV’s
I refer to a couple patent untruths published in “Electrifying Subaru”, Auto
Mania, by Dr (certainly not science) Corness.
1. He states: “Only electric vehicles have the ability not to pollute the
planet”. Fact is they are far worse polluters than liquid fuel propelled
ones, as the electrical energy that fills the battery is generally produced
in coal or gas fired power stations. Apart from that, even the most
efficient battery system delivers only a fraction of the energy that goes to
“fill” it. Pollution occurs but well away from where the car is used. Worse
still; the CO2 produced is also far greater than in a liquid fuel driven
2. It is cheaper. Well yes and no. If it weren’t for the inordinate amount
of tax that goes into the cost of liquid fuel, I venture to say that they
would be cheaper per km than electrically propelled ones.
3. It doesn’t need an “expensive fuel delivery system”. The electricity grid
is just as much a “fuel delivery system” and believe you me, it isn’t all
A further point, not mentioned by the Dr. whereas it takes just 1 or 2
minutes to recharge the car’s fuel tank for the next 200 to 300 km, the best
battery systems take 10’s of minutes, or more commonly, an overnight charge
to be refilled.
Powering vehicles by rechargeable batteries makes sense only if the
electricity grid delivers electricity derived from nuclear, or other non
polluting sources. It makes no sense otherwise.
The main point to remember: whenever something is moved, energy is involved
and more often than not that means burning carbon as the prime source of
Dear Adrian, Welcome to the letting off steam page in Automania, remembering
that steam was the automotive power of choice more than 100 years ago – but
it has been superseded!
With all due respects, your postulation that electric vehicles are far worse
polluters than liquid fuel propelled ones, because the electrical energy
that fills the battery is “generally produced in coal or gas fired power
stations”, is faulty. There are many ways to produce electricity, including
hydro-electric power, wind turbines and even tidal – the winds of change are
upon us. Non-polluting production of energy is well advanced. That goes for
your CO2 production as well. The EV does not produce it, whilst the liquid
fuel vehicle does. Using your logic, mobile phones should be banned as they
are also polluting as they recharge from the grid.
As far as “battery system delivers only a fraction of the energy that goes
to ‘fill’ it”, I would query that statement, as batteries are a clear winner
in the grid-to-wheels efficiency battle. Conventional Lithium-ion batteries
charge at about 93 percent efficiency and operate at about the same
efficiency, leading to an overall efficiency of over 85 percent.
Price? As the price of crude oil escalates (now almost $100 per barrel), the
cost of liquid automotive fuel also goes up, while electricity costs have
risen far less proportionally.
Incidentally, never mind about running out of fossil fuels, the oil industry
is pricing itself out of the market. So where are we heading? There are two
alternatives, and they are hydrogen and battery electric, and as time
marches on, the decision appears to be coming down more on the battery side
than the hydrogen fuel cell concept.
I also wrote, “As battery technology seems to be advancing rapidly, these
electric concepts already look more than viable for the majority of
commuters, and could possibly be seen in a showroom of a major manufacturer
in the not too distant future.” Note I used the words “concepts” and
“commuters” and “not too distant future”. The thought behind the item was
one of commuter transport tomorrow.
Finally, I would query your assertion that I am a “Dr (certainly not
science).” As a medical doctor, I was trained in ‘science’ and I gave up
using leeches and trephining many years ago, ditto magic spells.
Honda Racing Fest Saturday December 15
The final round of this year’s Honda Racing Fest will be held at
the Bira Circuit (Highway 36) on Saturday December 15. This has been a most
successful promotion by Honda, with the spectator car park absolutely full
for every meeting. The racing has been close, helped by stringent
scrutineering, but I do wish they would remove the mufflers, as instead of a
throaty roar, they go past with a very quiet ‘whoosh’ and some tyre noise.
The other classes include sedans up to 1.6 liters and up to 2 liters. Other
categories include the Honda Pro Club cars (any racing cars provided they have
an “H” on the front and then the Club Cars, which are daily transport road cars
(with some safety equipment).
Note again these are Saturday events, as opposed to the usual Sunday meetings.
Action will begin about 10 a.m. and go through till 4 p.m. and generally there
is a pit walk around noon.
The case for biodiesel
Our fossil fuel is coming to an end, so we are told. As stocks
dwindle with our need for oil unabated, the principle of supply and demand
continues. As demand goes up, so does the price.
If you want to know the ‘real’ facts in this world, read the financial pages of
your local newspapers. “Follow the money” should be everyone’s motto. Did you
know, for example, that the poor oil companies who are scratching around, trying
to get us motorists enough gasoline to last for the rest of the decade, because
they are really nice guys, and who so reluctantly have had to increase the price
of their product, just recorded the greatest profits in their history? Read the
financial pages and follow the money! The price went up, and so did the profits.
Somebody is making a killing here, and it isn’t us. We are the losers. No prizes
for guessing who are the winners!
However, we are stuck with the situation, and I believe that market forces will
see the motoring world adopt different energy sources, because they will be
cheaper. Diesels are already more cost efficient than the current crop of purple
For many industrial operators, biodiesel is seen as the path to follow, and many
governments are legislating to make this a favored option. Even in Thailand,
there are government moves towards assisting in the planting of oil palms as
forerunners of a biodiesel push, while up in the north of Thailand in Chiang
Mai, the university there is running small waste oil recycling plants to produce
biodiesel from discarded cooking oil. It seems that we can be more efficient, if
It should also not be forgotten that Rudolf Diesel’s first successful variant of
his engine ran on peanut oil! We are not dealing with some new technology. The
idea of putting pure, natural vegetable oil – like the oil we fry chips in –
into the fuel tanks of diesel vehicles is as old as diesel technology itself.
Natural vegetable oils such as canola oil are CO2-neutral, sulfur-free and
non-toxic and research shows that fuel consumption and engine performance are
the same as in conventional diesel operations.
The biological origin of biodiesel is what really makes it attractive because,
unlike fossil-derived fuels, the CO2 emitted from bio-derived fuels is not
subjected to any environmental regulation.
Putting the above very simply, scientific studies show that biodiesel works and
even low percentages of biodiesel added to ‘ordinary’ petrodiesel is beneficial.
Again, this is nothing really new!
HM the King of Thailand, in his birthday address to the powers that be, and the
nation at large, stated that biodiesel would assist in removing our dependence
on imported oil, and already some police departments have looked into their own
biodiesel recycling plant, using old cooking oil. It was also interesting to
note that the total plantation area of tobacco has become smaller, as tobacco
farmers are changing to palm oil for biodiesel.
In essence, we need not be the losers in the fuel crisis. Biodiesel works, it
can be made commercially viable for the growers, and all it needs is a push from
central authorities. The petroleum industry may not like it, but our bank
accounts will. For your next car think Euro-diesel engines powered by biodiesel.
This is where we have to change our thinking. The new Euro-diesel engines are
quiet, powerful and inexpensive to run, compared to petrol engines. Ford, BMW,
VW and Mercedes Benz have been offering diesel examples of their range for many
years. Time we really looked at it too.