Plug N Play Driving

I’ve been an F1 fan for twenty years and I’ve watched the ultra high-tech components make their way onto the manufacturers’ lines. The introduction of KERS (Kenetic Energy Recovery System) into F1 eventually spawned the various types of hybrid vehicles we see today. Over a decade on and the electric methods of powering vehicles have improved, both in efficiency and the speed in which they can be charged.

Whilst the F1 white coat’s latest efforts have been introduced onto the 2014 cars, offering double the HP of KERS, I wonder how long it’ll be before we see the end of the racing combustion engine?

The fully electric car has proven its enormous torque and acceleration possibilities. Petrolheads criticize the lack of sound and the smell of burnt fuel, and whilst I’m a passionate petrolhead, I get excited at the true potential of all this clean power. No spanners, wrenches or skinned knuckles; just laptops, programs, leads and ports. Gone are the days of the grease embellished mechanic; in are the boffins and computer geeks. Instead of superchargers and turbos and all those expensive parts needed to make an engine more powerful, it’ll be a case of just downloading and installing a program.

The only real problems we face with the fully electric vehicle is the charging times needed to give the cells a full charge. I expect this will soon be fixed, with greater driving ranges possible and the ability to charge wirelessly – I really can predict a ‘plug n play’ car in the not so distant future.

It will probably be this simple too and I’m glad I’m at an age where I’ll experience the development of the fully electric car whilst having experienced two decades of the combustion engine.

The only thing putting a dampner on all this potentially amazing technology is… technology. It’s all very well being able to tweak power and torque levels with a laptop, but with GPS devices already finding their way into hire cars, company cars, and insurance companies using them to offer lower premiums, it won’t be long before we are all tracked. Speeding is of course illegal, but who doesn’t open up the taps once in a while? It would feel a bit too 1984 for my liking.

So who’s in for the future of electricity? Or would you prefer cars remained as fire-breathing and snorting petrol guzzlers?

I’m 70/30 in favour of petrol, but then I do like to gargle gas once in a while…



It Takes Two To Tango

I recently stumbled across this little car whilst working on a piece for a celebrity car site. The star who actually bought one of these plug in Tango 600s is Gorgeous George (Clooney). “Here we go”, I thought, “another celeb purchasing an electric car, ensuring the world knows they are eco-aware and doing their bit for the planet.”

Preparing for a humorous assault on the little Tango and ensuring I got all my facts and figures correct, I quickly became aware this car was no joke. It’s hard to believe looking at it, but this bit of kit can hit 60-mph in 3.2 seconds and will continue all the way to 150-mph. WTF? I hear you ask…

Other WTFs include its $108,000 price tag and its weight: 3057-lbs – a third of this is due to batteries. This fully electric tandem two-seater shifts its big weight with two Advanced DC FB1-4001 9″ motors, both producing an amazing 1500-ft-lbs of torque.

The battery packs can also be upgraded from lead-acid to Nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) or lithium-ion (Li-ion) in the future. This will dramatically improve vehicle performance – 80% charge takes 10 minutes; full charge under 3 hours. The range isn’t too bad either, the standard pack offering 80 miles from a full charge.

So what we have is a quirky little sleeper, an eco-friendly midget capable of embarrassing some supercars – as you know, Gargling Gas is a mad Sleeper fan. It’s easy to park and drive around the city. The dash looks like it came from a proper race car, and the interior is finished to a high grade. The only feature I don’t like is the cheap looking wheels – they look like something Ford used in the 90s.

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to own one for a month or so, just to see the expressions of incredulity on Porsche, Lambo and Ferrari owners’ faces as this innocuous little machine leaves them silently behind.

Remembering The Combustion Engine

If I were to write what I thought about the electric car 15, 20 years ago, I would have used a lot of words unsuitable for publication. Back in the day with my brand new license and my gas gobbling MGB GT, the electric car in my mind was nothing more than a fancy milk float. I knew the technology was evolving but understood it would be some time before our roads became combustion free.

Although the thought of petrol-free motoring didn’t exactly worry me, it did make me think how lucky I was to have been born in a era that would allow me to spend the majority of my life riding out that last puff of exhaust fume before a law would finally snuff it out for good.

Of course, 15 years ago we didn’t have the hybrids either, and although they too will eventually come to an end, the petrol-powered car will be nothing more than pictures in books and examples in museums, most likely all snapped up by Jay Leno.

Perhaps it will be a while before we get that far, but I think if I ever had kids and eventually grandchildren, I’d find myself in the position where one will ask, “Granddad, did you ever drive a petrol car?” Just like I once might’ve asked my Granddad what it was like to travel on a steam train everyday.

Now, if you were to ask me what I think about the electric car 15 years on from my beloved MGB GT, I’d give you an entirely different answer. I say that the technology has got to a point where some seriously impressive stats are achievable. I’m not a fan of the hybrids, so I’m not totally won over with the direction they are going right now (I don’t like the idea of switching motors just to improve mileage and emissions) but once the technology allows for a fast car that can maintain performance over longer distances, then I think the electric car could be a brilliant bit of kit.

The Fisker Karma (pictured below) is proof that we will one day be driving in fully electric cars. These look great and can perform quite well – not quite up to the combustion engine mark yet. However, once the technology is there, the electric car will capable of some serious acceleration as the electric motor produces some big torque figures.

One day (if I live long enough) I’ll look back at the combustion engine with fondness and nostalgia, but being a car guy I won’t be saying things like, “Back in my day, cars were cars…” or “Those were the days, when cars were proper cars” as I’ll embrace the technology and hopefully be writing about 0-60 times of 2 seconds and quarter mile times of 9 seconds… all from electricity.