This isn’t specifically Saab-related, though their placement as early adopters of advanced ethanol technology users does place them in the mix here. It’s a bunch of thoughts I’ve had this morning as I’ve been considering the lack of focused Saab news out there, the recent Tesla press and the ongoing issue of enviromotoring.
Feel free to ignore or comment at will
The world’s in the early stages of a big fuel-fuelled maze at the moment.
One one side of the debate is the fact that a) the dinojuice supply is finite, and b) all the carbon based emissions from the dinojuice are doing the world some harm. On the other side of the debate is the fact that oil-based propulsion is still the most efficient and widely adopted method we have of getting around. Add to that the fact that in it’s purest form, driving is a bucketload of fun.
The future is heading in a number of different directions right now. Gasoline, hybrids, diesels, full electric, hydrogen and ethanol. All are pieces in the puzzle and the final picture will most likely combine a few, if not all of them.
It’s at this point that I give thanks for the investment my parents made in my education and my own investment in buying a Viggen – because aside from internal combustion, the future looks about as interesting as a potato sack. As a result, I’m quite likely going to spend my next 30 years driving things with pistons, regardless of the cost I’ll incur to do so.
The great slinky-shaped hype right now is the Tesla Roadster. Tesla have just announced a slight delay in production of vehicles for actual delivery to consumers, but they should start in early 2008.
The hype’s based on a number of things.
First, the Lotus-inspired body styling. You can get an electric car and look cool in it. Second, the 0-60 time of sub-4 seconds. You can get an electric car and go fast in it, quickly. Third, it’s an electric car, meaning that aside from the $100,000 purchase price and whatever it ends up costing you to service, it won’t cost you anything to run except the charge costs from your power outlets at home.
But consider whether being in the Tesla cult will actually be exciting from a driving point of view. How long can you enjoy that quick acceleration before the batteries have to be recharged? Can you take it for a spirited afternoon drive on the twisties without having to plan your destination first, or plan for an overnighter while the car recharges enough to get it home again?
Is there ever going to be a Tesla racing series? I foresee a Tesla LeMans where there’s maybe an hour of racing at a reasonable pace followed by a 4-hour pitstop and then another hour of racing…..
In reality, a Tesla is going to be useful for uninspiring daily driving that involves less than a 200 mile trip (it’s just been rated at 236 miles highway, but you’d want to be cautious), which should be most days. It’ll be used by those that want to look cool doing their daily rounds, and it’ll be carjacked by gang-bangers wanting to do stealth drive-bys.
Tesla plan to build 600 cars in 2008 and the world can definitely cope with just 600 Teslas on the power grid. It can easily cope with 10 times that amount and more. But widespread adoption of full electric cars in the next 20 years may spark a whole new set of problems, though. Pun intended.
Biofuels, on the other hand, have the potential to be efficient enough to minimise emissions through the closed loop nature of the growth cycle for the fuel used to power them. Whether it be diesel, ethanol or butanol, there’s a chance that we can produce goods for use and recycle some of the waste from them to produce fuel for transportation.
That scenario seems to offer room for a business case to be made that is viable going forward. The downfall of the full-electric argument is the assumption that people will act purely out of a motivation to better the environment. Well, it rarely happens and people, in a lot of instances, can’t afford to.
Tesla aren’t selling their butterfly kissing cars for peanuts becuase they’ve got a business to run, too.
I’ve heard some argue that the diesel boom in Europe will slow down as gasoline catches up with diesel in efficiency terms through new technologies. Whether or not this is even possible, I have no idea. But even if it were, it doesn’t get around the fact that all this does is add a year or ten to the lifetime of the world’s oil reserves.
Diesel has overtaken gasoline in Europe and I think it’ll make a big impact in the US once it’s released there and the fuel sources get better. There needs to be an accepted world standard for biodiesel, for example, that’ll make it commercially responsible to produce without damaging people’s engines.
Ethanol raises a whole different set of issues. It has it’s detractors, for sure, but it has its advantages, too, in terms of power-per-litre and rightsizing potential. As the fuel production and engine technology gets better the the fuel becomes more and more viable as an alternative.
Ethanol needs support to continue to grow. It’s not going to survive without government policy like that introduced in Sweden and Ireland and being considered by several other governments. Business won’t necessarily take actions without the profit incentive being in place somewhere along the line. Government won’t ordinarily make decisions without majority approval in the electorate, but areas such as ethanol are ones where government policy really can make a difference.
As I said at the top, the world’s in fuel-fuelled maze. Better heads than mine will work it out one way or another. In the meantime I’ll get the Viggen fixed and try and keep it as efficient as possible. Maybe I’ll even plant 17 trees a year in the hills above our house to offset it.
Perhaps I’ll get an Aero TTiD in years to come. Or even a BioPower Hybrid.
But I won’t be driving around in a Tesla, I can guarantee that.