I recently bought a hybrid car.
The dealer cautioned me not to get a surprise when the vehicle switches itself off when you halt at a crossing awaiting the lights to turn green. Even so, when the vehicle automatically stopped for the first time, force of habit made me reach for the ignition key!
A few times of driving the hybrid with the automatic stopping and starting made me get used to it. Quite quickly. And later when I was driving my other vehicle I would want it to also stop and start automatically. I was tempted to switch the car off manually!
We seem to adapt to new technology quite quickly.
A fully electric vehicle would be interesting to drive. I have yet to experience this. But the other day we had guests who had come from America and they shared their stories. Of electric vehicles and their amazing self driving features!
The conventional automobile, it seems, is morphing into an electric vehicle in front of our eyes. From gasoline driven to hybrid to full electrical.
One big advantage of an electric motor over the internal combustion engine is the way in which the electric motor produces torque over a speed range.
Torque is the rotational force the engine applies to turn the wheels of the vehicle.
This torque has to be highest when the car starts from rest. This is why we have to strain the most initially when we try to push a vehicle. Once the vehicle starts moving lower torque is just fine for propelling it.
This is exactly how the electric motor produces torque. And what is more an electric vehicle is able to produce this torque, high at start and low at higher speeds, over a big speed range.
An internal combustion engine on the other hand is rather constrained in its torque producing characteristics. A diesel engine is more constrained then a petrol engine. This is why we have to have a gear box with many gears, more for diesel engines then petrol.
In an electric vehicle we require only one gear!
The complicated internal combustion engine gets replaced by a simple electric motor generator. It drives the car and also charges the batteries which power the car. The gear box is super simple. The number of parts in an electric vehicle, therefore, are much lesser. It is a simpler vehicle.
The only hurdle is the battery. It needs charging which is time consuming. On the other hand the fuel tank of a conventional automobile can be filled in minutes.
The other hurdle is the distance the electric vehicle covers between charging.
With time technology may over come these hurdles and together with charging stations becoming as numerous as filling stations we may see the dawn of an electric vehicle era.
The internal combustion engine is likely to remain with us for a long time. But over time more and more of the vehicles on our roads will become electric vehicles.
When we visit our car dealer in the future, technology will give us the option of choosing between a conventional vehicle, a hybrid vehicle or an electric vehicle. This will become a real choice when the costs of electric vehicles comes down and the charging infrastructure becomes robust and common place.
(also see my blog post 'E rickshaw the ubiquitous vehicle')