Friday, May 26, 2017


So I'm on a train on my way down to Cumbernauld for the weekend. I have Jamie (age9) with me and he is delighted to be on a train. It's diesel-electric. Onboarding I pointed out the massive turbo on the side of the train just below the level of the platform. (I'm an engineer, I notice these things...)

The Diesel engine powers a generator to make electric energy to turn a massive induction motor that makes it move, I tell Jamie.

It's quiet, but you can just hear the engines dull drone as we fly through the countryside. I'm guessing being diesel-electric it is more efficient than pure diesel and also cleaner.

I was also on a bus this morning on the way to work. It was one of Aberdeens new hydrogen-powered fleet. Diesel busses have been abandoned in favour of turning hydrogen into electricity which again powers a motor to make the bus move. This bus is almost silent apart from some transmission noise on the move. When stopped there is no noise at all. Great for commuters like me tapping on my iPhone writing my blog.

I like both these forms of transport in terms of where we are with the tech. I am however a massive car fan… a petrol head at heart and I feel a sense of gloom coming.

I like my petrol and Diesel engines. I have a few cars. All of them older. A big 4x4 with a Diesel engine in it. I love the torque and the feeling of going anywhere it gives, and its 500 miles or so range. I have a lotus seven kit car with a revey 16v Toyota engine that makes it fly. I also have an Abarth 500 which has a little 1.4-litre turbocharged engine. It's got twin intercoolers and one of my favourite exhaust notes of any car I have owned.

I have promised the Abarth to Jamie when he is old enough to drive.

Jamie is 9, and he will not be able to drive till he is 17. That's in 8 years time. With care and regular servicing, the little Abarth should still be in rude health when he is ready. It's quite easy. I have had many cars that were over 10 years old and have higher miles on them. The Abarth is a modern car and the build quality and corrosion protection are really good.

The big problem as I see it is, will petrol and diesel cars still be on the road in 2025? In only eight years time.

I read an article while having my lunch today, which was a report by Stanford University that are predicting that fossil fuel cars will vanish in less than EIGHT years time! The report suggests as electric cars become cheaper, 'Big Oil' and the petroleum industry will collapse. People will have no choice but to invest in electric cars. Electric cars will become cheaper, more reliable and travel further.

It painted a picture of petrol and diesel cars being abandoned. No longer being economical to run. Petrol stations would close and become increasingly difficult to find. Spare parts would stop being made. Garages will no longer repair the current generation of cars. The falling oil price is predicted to get lower.

So it may be game over for the little Abarth and my 4x4. Eight years does not seem that far away. What's their fate in years to come, abandoned, in the 2025 fuel crisis.

For my lotus seven kit car, I'm not so worried. I built it after all. As technology changes who knows I could replace the petrol engine with a dirty great big electric motor (dirty?) and some modern batteries. Possibly both donated from a crash damaged modern electric car. The performance could be better than the current petrol engine.

My kit car has a simple 12-volt electric system with a separate wire harness for the engine. So to remove the petrol engine and its ECU would be easy. It would leave big holes where the engine, gearbox and petrol tank lived. These can be replaced by the Motor its ECU, and batteries or fuel cell. Who knows I may be able to put a motor per wheel and make it four-wheel drive. That would be fun.

All the other electric systems would remain unchanged. There is no antilock brakes or traction control. It's really only lights and a horn left when the engines are gone.

It should be lighter too if I could get a range of 200 or so miles that would be ideal. It doesn't go much further on a tank of petrol at the moment. It's not very comfortable for long distances so the majority of driving I do is just a quick blast at evenings and weekends.

So 2025, here's hoping Jamie gets some use out of the Abarth before we need to abandon it at the side of the road.

I also need to get my finger out as I have dreams and promises of building a hot rod project with the boys when they get older. Nothing fancy. Something rat looking with old black faded paint, a small noisy engine, no mod cons, and flames up the side. Fingers crossed.

(edited, The Abarth may have some reprieve, found this great article on an electric rally car... Hmmm 460 bhp?)