Whats New in Motoring?

Aug 29 19:53 2008 Mervyn Rees Print This Article

To start with, the price of fuel has gone sky high! But then I'm pretty sure you will have noticed that with so many factors at play in the recent rocket ship ride of oil prices, far be it for me to offer any more sage analysis than what you may already have heard:

Copyright (c) 2008 Mervyn Rees

To start with,Guest Posting the cost of fuel has gone sky high! But then I'm pretty sure you will have observed that with so many factors at play in the recent rocket ship ride of oil prices, far be it for me to give any more sage analysis than what you may already have heard:

1. That the conflict in Iraq has contributed to OPEC price instability.

2. That the recent hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico have played havoc with US and international petroleum production and refinement in the region.

3. A general recognition that energy consumption practices must be seriously altered.

4. That, as Harry Potter seems to be everywhere these days, he must be involved, though J.K. Rowling has remained suspiciously quiet about it.

Anyone over the age of 40 has been hearing about the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels since the aptly named 'energy crisis' of the mid 1970's, when for the first time, the West came face to face with the hard facts that:

1. Arab oil producing nations (OPEC) as well as Russian oil and gas, effectively have the world over the proverbial barrel, (of oil that is - black gold, Teheran tea) because of our frighteningly wasteful consumption of oil and gas at present.

AND

2. Our grossly improvident guzzling of said fuel HAD to be radically restructured, BEFORE we ran out of the stuff, or we all have to become familiar with the old horse and buggy once more.

That was thirty years ago and sadly, very little seems to have fundamentally changed since then. OPEC & Co still have the West over a barrel, and that's simply because we haven't altered our consumption practices to any great degree.

Or have we?

There's no question that automobile manufacturers are producing more fuel-efficient cars than ever before. Compared to even the early 1980's, motor vehicles today generally have much higher fuel efficiency than their forebears.

Manufacturers have even gone so far as to create the 'Hybrid' vehicle - a car that runs on a combination of traditional petroleum and electricity. It does so by converting unused combustion engine energy, such as that normally squandered by braking or coasting, into electricity and then storing it in a battery.

This energy can then be used when needed by the hybrid's electrical motor to assist the conventional engine at times when it's at its least efficient - generally during low speed driving conditions or when climbing steep inclines.

Then there is the even more futuristic fuel cell vehicle. Essentially, this is a car which runs on a device (another highly specialized battery) which converts oxygen and hydrogen into water, the end result of the process being electricity that is then used to power the motor. Unlike conventional batteries, whose internally stored chemicals are finite and are eventually depleted, thus rendering the battery expendable, the fuel cell battery will continue to produce electricity as long as oxygen and hydrogen are continually introduced into it.

Apart from being relatively cheap to maintain, one of the main selling points of this design is that with the chemicals used to stimulate the process including pure hydrogen, the sole by-products of such an engine would be nothing more harmful to our environment than water vapour and heat. We could say farewell to the catalytic converter and emissions guidelines and testing, forever. Yes I know, it brings tears to your eyes, doesn't it?

The automobile industry is clearly being forced to re-think its approach to fuel efficiency even further, as the line-ups and gas gouging prices of the 70s are with us once again, although thankfully they've left their bell bottoms and platforms boots at home this time.

The 80's and 90's were conspicuous by the appearance of the 'monster' car. SUV's and mammoth trucks were all the rage offering an unprecedented sense of status, luxury and power for anyone with the laissez-faire to fork out tens of thousands of £'s or $'s for what amounted to a living room on wheels.

This decade seems certain to be characterized by just the opposite. Smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, even those that run on alternative forms of energy such as hybrids, electricity, or hydrogen fuel cells, are being marketed as the way of the future.

The question is, will these automobiles capture the interest and the buying power of the customer before the reappearance of the horse drawn carriage?

Stay tuned; but stock up on your sugar cubes and bags of apples, just in case.

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About Article Author

Mervyn Rees
Mervyn Rees

Mervyn Rees - Author of, 'The Secrets of Biodiesel'. http://www.whybiodiesel.com An active young 72 year old with a lifetime of experience to share, being a Fellow of the Institute Motoring Industry, built his own Dragonfly Roadsters before retiring as a Motor Vehicle Manufacturer. Having tried retiring twice and given up, he has now created an additional website MervTech to share his many interests with other likeminded people.

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