Petrol Power Is Here To Stay

Posted: July 14, 2011 in Cars

It’s the reflections issue. I’ve only written three pieces for this ol’ magazine, so in reality the only thing I can reflect on is how the hell I’ve put on so much weight in the last six months. I’m tipping excessive food intake and no exercise. So, rather than reflect, I’m revolting and writing a whole brand new piece.

The Tokyo Motor Show was on just recently. Apparently, the majority of brands decided that, instead of going to Tokyo, they would just eschew the whole event, drink beer in Germany and then present their new vehicles and concepts at Frankfurt. Can’t say I blame them really.

This left the organisers of the Tokyo event with a rather large conundrum; not least because even the Japanese brands had followed the lead of their European and American cousins and buggered off to Oktoberfest as well. After much grovelling and begging, the Japanese brands decided to send their new range of electric vehicles.

This got me thinking about the future of motoring, not only in this country, but in the rest of the world as well.

The electric vehicles on display were all of the plug-in variety, even the hybrids. Mitsubishi are probably the most advanced in the field of plug-in electric car with their iMiev. I’ll admit that the iMiev car is pretty handy, around the city. Its range is still tiny (approx 250 km) compared to petrol and hybrids and Mitsubishi themselves have admitted that without proper infrastructure eg. recharge points, at car parks and other locations the iMiev remains a pipe dream for most Australians. Requests to the Australian Federal and State Governments for commitments relating to recharge points have thus far fallen on deaf ears.

I can see the government’s point though. If the whole of Australia goes for electric motoring how are they going to make any money out of it? At present the Government earns about 60 cents a litre from the sale of petrol. This means that every time I fill my 70 litre petrol tank I am giving the Government $42.00 for them to supposedly spend on road work and infrastructure development. Apart from the GST applied to the purchase of electricity to recharge the car; they’re not going to make any money from electric cars.

The technology involved in the internal combustion engine is old and, I would estimate, about 50 years out of date. General Motors have had a car that runs on water since the early 70’s and the idea of an electric car has been around now since….well, since the birth of electricity probably. But these ideas have never advanced any further than they are now. Why is that?

Putting my conspiracy hat on I would suggest that there is a major link between the car companies and the oil companies. To suggest otherwise would be naïve. Therefore I can’t see any major advances in electric technology until the oil runs out. Even hybrids, filthy hybrids, are just a temporary solution so that the use of oil power continues.

Why don’t I like hybrids I hear you ask? There has been a study recently that shows a Toyota Prius owned over three years, including all the mining of raw materials and producing the bits in factories, has the same global impact as owning a Land Rover Discovery 3, which is only a small step down from setting off a nuclear bomb for warmth. Hybrids mainly use NiMh batteries that are good for about three years before needing to be replaced, and where we dump the old batteries is problematic. In a collision there is the chance that the batteries will split and dump their acidic insides all over the place. But worst of all, why do all hybrids look like a normal car that has been pre-collided? Does the style of a vehicle even matter to the average person anymore? Show me a good looking hybrid and I’ll give you a decent wad of hard earned.

I like the idea of electric cars, but we haven’t nailed it yet. At this point in time I’m putting my star behind hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. Although extracting it for use in electricity generation is a little time consuming, approximately 4 kg of liquid hydrogen will provide a vehicle with enough power to do 400 + km. Hydrogen, when burnt in fuel cells, gives off water vapour and that’s all. No horrible burnt hydrocarbons to stink up the place. The refuelling infrastructure would be similar to what we are using now and best of all, for the Government could tax it like they tax petrol. So why is everyone sitting on their hands? Why aren’t we producing Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars by the millions?

Oh yeah. Oil. Texas tea. Black gold. There is still bucket loads of it waiting to be liberated from its underground prison. There is still money to be made. Make no mistake, this stuff will be pumped from the ground until there is no more. When we get to the end of our supply there will no doubt be a massive global war to control what is left. A war to end all wars. There will probably be millions and millions, perhaps billions, of people killed.

Oh well, at least I’ll have the roads to myself.

This article first appeared in the December 2009 issue of the The King’s Tribune.

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