The view from down here

Electric Drivetrain

July 30, 2008

I'm no car engineer, and all I remember about electricity is V=IR. But I have a simple idea.

It seems that the most direct way to turn the corner from oil to something else is to replace the internal combustion engine and transmission of every automobile with an electric drive train.

The type of energy source, from hydrogen fuel cells and household outlets, to hamster wheels and zero-point energy, doesn't matter nearly as much as making that fundamental switch.

It seems that once we cross over to an electric drive train, the actual power source would be relatively simple to change. There could be an extensive after-market industry to make different types of power plants for cars, trucks, busses, and boats.

Attach a diesel powered generator for long trips. Take that out and put in a fuel-cell option, or use the perfect transitional power plant: a gas tank and unleaded gas engine. Whatever the form, we should have electric drivetrains and standards for building separable and replaceable power plants, battery units, and motors.

Now you get regenerative braking, no idling at red lights, and every car could have a roof-top of solar cells to eat the sunlight while it sits parked at the office each day.

Next time you are at a large busy intersection, imagine all the gas being wasted moving the engines but not the cars, and then multiply that intersection and the hundreds of cars in your own line of sight by the number of intersections in the entire world.

Even if we did nothing else but switch to an electric drivetrain and powered the motor and batteries with the same old gasoline, it seems we would be better just avoiding all that idling waste. But the cycle would be broken, and you could soon throw away that oil-burning transitional power pack and plug in the latest fuel-cell pack as soon as they finish inventing it. Take out the lithium-ion battery component and drop in a new capacitor.

We are close to the tipping point. When was the last time you considered buying a dot-matrix printer or a CRT television? Soon the only cars that you can buy will be electric, and your power options will be open sky.

Copyright 2008 Daniel LaFavers