SAN FRANCISCO--So much investment, so much sturm und drang around
electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure. We're hailing
them one day, burying them the next, toasting them again the day
[Get ready for the
China Fabless Summit 2013, our Spring forum where Chinese startups will showcase their plans for the future of the electronics industry.]
Has there ever been another industry so fitful in its evolution?
This despite the full faith and credit of the U.S. government (and
others) backing the technology, the infrastructure and the promise
of a green future. Still, it may well bear fruit...someday.
Meanwhile, emerging from the alleyways of automotive innovation
is the driverless car. In the grand technological scheme, it's a complete and utter
surprise and represents a stunning
disruption of conventional wisdom--all while it leverages affordable, here-now
electronics technology. Thank you Gordon Moore, thank you Vint Cerf,
thank you Al Gore, thank you internet of things, thank you embedded
design engineers and software coders. Thank you Nevada and
pictured nearby are
Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown (left) with Google's Sergey Brin (sporting the spy beard) at a driverless car celebration
for legalizing driverless cars). You have set the type for
the next chapter in the history of disruption.
I owned a Massey Ferguson 35 tractor and a Massey Ferguson 135 at the same time for a few years. The significant difference between these near identical three cylinder diesel engines was that the 35 had pre-combustion chambers and the 35 had direct injection with a swirl chamber in the piston. The direct injection engine would start easily as long as the starter could turn it over. The pre-combustion engine, which had been completely overhauled needed glow plugs and would crank for ages and smoke like crazy at cold temperature before it would start. The fuel economy of the 135 was more than 30% better dragging the same farm implements through the ground. I averaged 1 gal per 2 hours running time.
I also owned a GM PD4104 highway coach with a 6-71 direct injection Detroit Diesel. It also started as long as the starter could barely turn over the engine at the coldest temperatures (using #1 Diesel of course). This 26,000lbs bus always averaged 10mgp or better (in its 680,000 mile logbook)which translates to 130mpg/ton. This mileage is a figure even today's prototype cars have been unable to better. We're talking about a bus built in 1955 by GM. So they know how.
My 1955 GM PD4104 highway coach with a 6071 direct injection Detroit Diesel averaged 10mpg in its 680,000 mile logbook which translates to 130mpg/ton. You may say that the bus had the aerodynamics of a brick, compared to a car but you would be wrong. It's secret was a full belly pan. A vehicle's major source of drag is between the road and the underside where air shear and turbulence is greatest as the air is trapped and cannot get out of the way the way smoothly the way it can on the outside of a vehicle.
Citroens all had full belly pans. Their wind tunnel featured a conveyor belt so the road effect could actually be measured. Most other manufacturers couldn't be bothered, which I call outright laziness or stupidity. At the time, Mercedes' wind tunnel consisted of 2 large fans in a large open room with the car between them. The Citroen CX diesel had faster acceleration and higher top speed than the Mercedes turbo diesel and better economy than the VW Golf diesel.
As far as safety and weight is concerned you might want to look up the Citroen CX of the '70s again. Again a roomy sedan weighing in at 2800 lbs. designed for safety. It's claim to fame was crashing into a barrier wall at and angle of 60 degrees (imagine the twist) at 60mph (not the the 10mph nonsense) and you could open and close three of the four doors! Citroen was known even in the '30s for filming its cars crashing spectacularly to demonstrate their safety.
Just for reference, the 2012 Fiat 500 weighs in at 2600 lbs.
First of all, batteries and the charging of batteries is a big deal and certainly can be a show stopper. A hybrid electric car would be a better option, for certain, even if the main use was with charging at home.
Next, Bert22306 was correct in his assertions about efficiency and vehicle weight. Most of the problems come from the safety requirements. I would be quite happy to ride in a car that was only as safe as my 1965 Barracuda, or my 1964 Valiant. Both were smaller but much more maneuverable, which is handy for getting out of the way when other folks make mistakes. In fact, I don't think that anybody should be allowed to drive one of those "tanks" that protect them every time they do something dumb. If, as a nation, we accept the theory of evolution, let us not work so hard at thwarting it as we presently do. OK? The courts consistently reward stupidity and general dumbness, and as a result, it looks like we are indeed headed that way. Just when we engineers think that we have made something foolproof, along comes a more foolish fool to prove us wrong.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.