The ICE is dead! Long live the ICE!
I'm not talking about Vanilla Ice! [Internal Combustion Engine]
Recently there's been a massive surge in interest in electric, battery powered vehicles. Several manufacturers have been so bold as to claim they intend to transform their entire range of vehicles into electric vehicles in only a few years.
I personally believe this is a MISTAKE! Now before you try and shoot me down Greta fans -
Image Source | Wiki Commons:- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Greta_Thunberg,_2018_(cropped).jpg
I agree with Greta Thunberg! At least on certain things. I agree with her that the Climate Crisis needs to be tackled head on and urgently. We need a green revolution. The Earth is now living on borrowed time and will likely become largely uninhabitable within an alarmingly short amount of time. However, I didn't come here to tell you about Climate Change. If you have your science hat on and fancy some bedtime reading - Please, be my guest!:-
Plague, famine, heat no human can survive. This is not science fiction but what scientists, when they’re not being cautious, fear could be our future.
So hang on.. What DID you come here for?
Well, I'd like think I came here to spread some good news and to give you all some hope for the future. As self-respecting petrolheads (if that's NOT you - what are you doing here?) we all worship the marvel that is the internal combustion engine. Pistons, cylinders, valves, crank shafts, all working in harmony to convert dead plants and dinosaurs into kinetic energy. It's a magical thing, it's as close to wizardry as a man can get without pulling rabbits out of hats and asking people to 'pick a card'. The internal combustion engine is a marvel of modern engineering. The first commercially successful ICE dates back to the late 1800s in the shape of the Lenoir Engine. If you're so inclined you can read about it here:-
Since then, we've been fine tuning, refining and improving the design. Lenoir's first stab at a working ICE had a mere 1.5 horsepower. Today, we have engines like the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C, which has nearly 2000 litre capacity and develops over 100,000 horsepower. (They use these on container ships. The engine weighs over 2300 tons and is over 85 feet long - so don't start planning one into your next 'engine swap' project)
Do we really want to throw away over 100 years of design and development?
But what about the planet?! What about Greta, who's apparently had her childhood stolen or something?
I get that. However, by attacking the ICE, we're attacking the wrong thing. The ICE is NOT the problem. The issue is WHAT we use to fuel the ICE.
Petrol and diesel are both hydrocarbon fuels. They are made from rotted and fossilized life from millions of years ago and composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms. When we burn those fuels in an ICE, carbon and other particles that have been trapped under the earth for millennia, are released into the air.
But what if I told you there OTHER, CLEANER things we could burn in an ICE?
What?! Speak sense man!
Yes. The technology isn't new, but it's seeing a resurgence. Have you ever heard of eFuels? eFuels get water and carbon from the air and mimic the structure of petrol and other fuels made from oil. Synthetic fuels are renewable and though they release CO2 when burned, this is offset by the fact they capture CO2 whilst they are being synthesized.
Hang on, there has to be a catch here?
There is, sadly. eFuels are horrendously expensive to produce. The Royal Society scientific institute estimates one litre of eFuel diesel costs £4 before taxes. That price may come down if enough investment is poured into the industry. But in the short to medium term eFuels will probably be significantly more expensive than traditional fossil fuels.
Can't we just have a battery car?
Lithium ion battery cars might make the dungarees and sandals brigade cum their pants and salivate at the 'green credentials', but they are flawed. In some circumstances they DO make sense. Short journeys in cities and towns are fine. However, short range batteries and long charge times make them difficult to live with as a sole car for many people. I can perfectly understand a family who have a little Honda e for local commuting into the city, school runs and shopping - as long as they also have a petrol or diesel car for the drive down to the south of France (Brexit permitting) during the summer holidays. You also have to consider the impact of mining for exotic materials to make the batteries and the economic impact of shipping those materials to where the batteries are manufactured. There's a place for battery cars, I accept that. However, there will ALWAYS be a place for ICE cars.
More on eFuels:-
Research into replacing fossil fuels with synthetic efuels could mean there’s life in the combustion engine yet
I don't believe this!
You may not, but many serious automotive manufacturers DO! Porsche announced in late 2020, that they were intending to build their own plant and begin producing synthetic eFuels by 2022, hoping to produce 55 million litres per year by 2024. This isn't a significant amount - the UK currently uses nearly 50 million litres of fuel a year alone, but this is a start. With some drivers opting for battery cars, demand for fuel could fall and we could end up with a serious, forward-looking solution to green personal transport.
Dedicated plant will produce sustainable fuel for existing combustion-engined Porsche models
Yes, but Porsche-
Bentley, Mazda, McLaren, Audi and Volkswagen are ALL seriously researching synthetic fuels as a credible alternative to petrol and diesel. Car manufacturers know electrification isn't a one shoe fits all solution to green personal transport.
The battery powered car makes sense for some people, certainly. However, over the last hundred years we've become very good at making internal combustion engines. It's now time to shift our focus and utilize our chemical engineer boffins to produce a cleaner fuel to BURN in those internal combustion engines. Yes, there's something addictive about the linear surge of torque you get in a powerful electric car. But, that'll never replace the magical, poetry in motion of cylinders and pistons working together to produce power, in an internal combustion engine.
The question is, how would YOU rather cheer up Greta Thunberg?
Buy a Taycan Turbo S and hope the local power station isn't coal-fired?
Buy a 911 GT2 RS running on a clean, environmentally friendly, carbon neutral, eFuel (albeit costing £2000 to fill up)
showing a lack of respect for people or things that are generally taken serious
Stories and images of supercar crashes, in honour of veteran crasher Hammond