The future of the automobile over the next few years is going to be very exciting, or even unbelievable. Who would think we will have driverless taxi cabs in the next two years? (Or so says the news; let’s hope this is not fake news.)
As electronics, computers and great designs get more refined and smarter, running at incredible speeds at lower cost, they will dominate the automotive world. Electronics and motors are so very dependable now, cars are chock-full of them. I still remember the cars of the ‘60s: “Don’t get the option of power windows because it is just one more thing to break. That is not the case anymore; just about all cars in the U.S. have power windows.
Advanced electronics give cars autopilot capabilities. Electric motors have landed in electric vehicles, including the Tesla, BMWi3, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus electric, Kia Soul EV, Mercedes B250e, VW e-Gulf, Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf. This is for making vehicles more powerful with increased range and no tailpipe emissions.
With better battery technology, the driving range of electric vehicles is increasing, with charging times decreasing. When produced, the Tesla Roadster is projected to go 620 miles under ideal conditions between charges. It also will accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds (fastest production car in the world) and achieve a top speed of 250 mph. Yes, loyal readers, I was one of the first to order one, so in one to two years I will provide non-fake news about the Roadster’s performance.
One of the great technologies for me is hybrids. The easy definition of a hybrid is “two ways of powering the vehicle.” In the hybrid automobile, power is provided by both gasoline and electricity. The advantage of hybrids is the ability to fuel them in minutes, vs. charging an all-electric car, which takes more than an hour.
But both hybrids and all-electric cars have the ability to recover energy that would otherwise be wasted when braking. These use what is called regenerative braking systems, which store power from friction created when a car in motion is slowed by braking. The power is stored in a battery until needed, at which time it helps to accelerate the car via an electric motor that supplements the gasoline engine.
Having an electric motor to supplement acceleration in a hybrid allows the car to have a smaller, more efficient gasoline engine for maintaining decent power. Brake life is very long, too.
Some manufacturers are making fuel cell, or hydrogen-fueled vehicles. In my opinion, this is a complete waste of time and money. Hydrogen is not natural in nature; producing it requires three times more energy then comes from one gallon of gasoline. Hydrogen must be stored in very high-pressure canisters. It is difficult to transport, very explosive and has no distribution system. For the record, I have been saying this for more than 17 years, and the technology has not advanced beyond a few hydrogen-fueled cars owned by car manufactures.
The advancement of lithium ion batteries is happening yearly. Costs are dropping as more factories are ramping up with them. Problems associated with lithium ion batteries have been addressed in advanced monitoring systems.
Hybrid or all-electric?
So which car should a consumer choose from, a hybrid or all-electric? It depends on a few things. If you have only one vehicle, my choice would be a hybrid. The reason is you can travel long distances without having to stop for long periods of time to recharge the battery.
Even the advanced Tesla requires ideal conditions to travel up to 335 miles between charges, and that with the big battery pack ($$$). And then you have to stop at a well-placed charging station for more than an hour to charge the battery to 80 percent or overnight for 100 percent. A hybrid needs only a 5-minute stop to fill the tank up to every 500 miles.
Two-car families have the advantage of only using the electric car around town, keeping in mind the average commute is less than 24 miles both ways. A pure electric is the least carbon emitting private vehicle available.
I’m excited for the future of vehicles. Repairing vehicles for more than 44 years, the changes have been incredible, or even more, unbelievable.
Tips on tires
Be sure to check your tire pressure at least monthly. This needs to be done with the tires cold, that is having been driven for less than 5 miles. The tire pressure is set by the vehicle manufacture and can be found on the panel behind the driver’s door. It is a good idea for a car owner to buy a $8 tire pressure gauge and set a monthly time to check them.
Proper tire pressure improves fuel mileage and extends the life of tires along with improved handling and safety. Low tire pressure can cause heat buildup and blowouts.