Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Britain to be Clown-Car Capital of the World

Aparrently in a sop to the greens, Gordon Brown is announcing measures in the forthcoming budget to promote the use of electric cars, as reported here.

The problem is, battery-powered electric cars are an evolutionary dead end. Despite advances in bettery technology, they provide neither the range nor the short recharge times consumers demand in order to break through into the mainstream. They will remain a quirky toy, not a viable transport alternative.

As an example, there have been great advances in battery technology. Lithium-ion batteries can now be charged very rapidly, in fact there are now Li-on batteries that can be charged in very few minutes, which is great for the small voltages and currents used in consumer electrical items like ipods, walkmans and laptops.

Its a whole different ball game when it comes to traction: the movement of vehicles. Thats because larger voltages and currents are necessary in order to move a vehicle, and therefore a larger capacity battery is needed. Recharging that battery in a couple of minutes, would take several hundred amps.

For example, a tiny G-Whizz has a 200 Ampere Hour battery. Basically the battery can deliver (roughly) 200 amps of current for an hour before being exhausted. However, it also works in reverse. To charge the battery up in an hour, you'd need to supply just over 200 amps of current for that hour. Supplying that amount of current requires some chunky wiring. G-Whizz themselves supply a 1-hour charger, but it only charges to 90% of battery capacity and takes so much current from the mains, it needs a three-phase mains supply (only usually available to commercial users) to spread the load.

All of that hassle to take an hour to charge the battery? Now start to think about if you wanted to charge up the battery in half an hour, or 10 minutes. The impracticality of delivering a thousand amps of current in a consumer-safe way starts to hit home. Are we really going to adjust to waiting for an hour to recharge every 100 miles of travel? I don't think so.

So, what REALLY is the future of electrically-propelled transport?

Its Hydrogen fuel cell technology.

THATS where Gordon Brown needs to be investing his money, not in some already redundant technology.

Hydrogen fuel cells are green and the best thing is a car can be refuelled with Hydrogen in a similar amount of time to a petrol or diesel car. There is no radical change needed to our lifestyle.

Cars will be lots simpler too, because the number of moving parts will be reduced down to the motor, the transmission and suspension, then eventually as motors get incorporated into wheel hubs, only the four axles and the moving bits of the suspension will ever wear out. They will be lighter too, with no heavy engine and no heavy batteries compared to plug-in electric cars.

So when you hear the Chancellor and the PM bleating on about advancing environmental technology in the budget, if they invest in battery car technology you know they've been ill-advised, they're stupid, or they're telling lies.

What would I do? I'd announce a minimum-tax policy on the production, sale and purchase of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. I'd also announce minimum tax and zero duty on hydrogen used as fuel and tax rebates for installation of hydrogen fuel supply infrastructure.

Honda already have a Hydrogen fuel cell car in production called the Clarity, its been on Top Gear. If we give enough incentive to Honda, maybe we can save all those car-making jobs in Swindon and make Britain the Hydrogen fuel innovators of Europe.

But hey, I'm only a lowly blogger, what do I know?

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