Has anyone noticed that internal combustion engines are not really improving anymore? Automobile accessories are certainly improving, e.g., on-board internet/computing equipment, GPS devices, security systems, etc. However, internal combustion engine design is no longer improving – at least, not significantly. The reason for this is simple, if well-hidden by the car companies: internal combustion technology is more than 100 years old and it is played out.
Each year the automobile companies present the same old engine wrapped in an ever-nicer package. Car buyers are actually buying the package now, not the contents. Fortunately for the car companies, the average car buyer can’t make the distinction. Anyone who believes that this consumer fog occurs by accident is almost certainly beloved by a multitude of industries, including – of course – Big Oil.
Electric vehicle (EV) technology represents a huge advancement in relation to the traditional gas-powered engine. The EV has no internal combustion engine, no cooling system, no exhaust system, no gas tank, no belts, and no hoses. Eventually, assuming each wheel is powered by its own electric motor, the EV will have no transmission or axles. Consequently, the EV will be much lighter and the cost of driving it will be far less. It will be much simpler in design and correspondingly more reliable.
Moreover, a gallon of gas takes up significant space, and since gasoline is an incompressible liquid, there is absolutely no help for this. On the other hand, electricity is not an incompressible liquid. There is no minimum space requirement for storing electricity. It is true that, at the time of this writing, a battery pack that provides sufficient to power to run an EV is quite bulky. Nevertheless, battery technology is still very much in its infancy and experts predict that battery packs will quickly decrease in size and increase in performance – much like microprocessor chip technology.
In the near future, one might expect battery packs to be similar in size, shape, and operation to a flash drive that plugs into one’s computer. Instead of refueling at a gas station, or even recharging overnight at one’s home, one might simply buy a palm-size battery pack at a grocery or liquor store, plug it into one’s dashboard, and drive away.
Although the above might sound like ridiculous science fiction, can one imagine what a cowboy might have thought, sitting atop “Old Paint” 100 years ago, horse apples dropping majestically, if someone had described to him the performance of a modern day automobile? It would surely have sounded like ridiculous science fiction.
The internal combustion engine depends upon oil, a non-replenishing resource that is fast being used up. Consequently, drilling for oil is becoming more and more costly and risky, with the corresponding price of gas rising accordingly. It is undeniable that this trend can only continue. On the other hand, production of electricity is safe, easy, relatively inexpensive, and quantities are unlimited in any practical sense. As focus shifts toward newer and better ways and means to produce electricity, one might well expect to see this resource actually becoming cheaper over time, with far fewer risks to human life or to the environment.
Planet Earth is greatly in need of an energy source to replace petroleum. Fortunately, such an energy source is readily available in the form of electric power. EVs will succeed, the internal combustion engine will become obsolete, and in the process electric power will prove itself a much more effective and convenient energy than petroleum.