Motoring’s ambition

In just the beginning of 2009, there were 2 notable announcements in the motoring industry; the official unveil of the full-electric Tesla Model S sedan, and the corporate launch of the Indian city-car the Tata Nano. These products, in my opinion, are the solutions to 2 fundamental set-backs with the world today; the lack of confidence in the economy, and increasing environmental and social pressure. Jeremy Clarkson on the other hand, being the motoring enthusiast that he is, is so confident about the potential of the hydrogen-fuelled Honda Clarity. It is a radical product yes, that however, alleviates neither of these contemporary problems.

Money is one thing the world does not have, nor time for that matter. It is ridiculous to approve research and funding into harvesting and distributing hydrogen when in the end, our dependency on fuel leads us back to large multi-nationals in control of supply and prices. If we need to get through quoting Jeremy Clarkson “… the entire old testament before you can buy and run such a thing, practically and for a reasonable price… ” then sorry but hydrogen is not a practical solution to the immediate crisis the world is facing. It is neither a solution to our social addiction as being passive, ill-advised consumers.

“I’ll let you into a little secret. In the real world, away from the wide open spaces of the Top Gear test track, a Fiat 500 is much more fun to drive than a Zonda. A Zonda will pull more men, but on a bumpy back road, you’ll be wearing a bigger smile in the Fiat, I promise, or a Mini… in the not too distant future, cars like this will become the norm for enthusiastic drivers… “

It is not, I would like to perceive this as, about toning down aspirations. It is about appreciating that smaller economy cars are just as, if not more fun to drive, and besides, in the middle of the urban chaos, there is no genuine need for anything else; the jam-packed urban roads are best traversed by nimble city-cars that are minute yet practical, economical and environmental, and beautiful. This is the Tata Nano; though not beautiful would I argue, it is an economical, and hence an appealing option. If only it could resemble a Fiat 500 in aesthetics.

“… so it seems likely the car firms will opt for the easier, cheaper option of making stupid hybrids, like the Prius, which all right-thinking people can tell are nothing more than a complicated way of making people feel like they are making an effort. We know that they are doing no such thing. Hybrids are power-hungry when they are being made, and environmentally devastating when they are being scrapped, and in-between times, they do, at best, 45 MPG.”

The Tata Nano does no better, 50 MPG, thought it is a 2 cylinder and not a hybrid; it fails too being environmental. The all-electric Tesla Roaster on the other hand, has reported 120 MPGGE efficiency, considering it being a sports-car capable of doing 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds. The thing about economy cars is that not only are they small, it takes a lot less effort to move them around, and this is definitely an advantage when talking about efficiency, and consequently the environment. The Tata Nano weighs half of that of the Tesla Roaster.

Though not as small nor light as the Roadster, the Tesla Model S, being an all-electric luxury sedan, boasts some compelling figures of its own. It is quiet, and it is a work of beauty, but let’s put that aside. The focus is demonstrated in its technology. It has a single-speed gearbox, meaning effortless acceleration and no fancy clutch-work; less moving parts and no oil changes, less maintenance. It takes about 4 hours for a full charge through a 220V power outlet, 45 minute quick-charge through a 440V outlet, and costs roughly about 4 dollars equivalent for a full charge. It has a 300 mile range, less if the less expensive battery is preferred, but why worry about range if the user can charge through any electrical outlet, there is not even need to travel to the pumps.

It should be an easy gesture to plug it in when it’s parked, whether it is at work, at home, at the restaurant, even at the store. The concern about plugging these in is of course the strain on the electric-grid, but market adoption is gradual, and if the development of the smart-grid infrastructure is parallel, the relative effects should be negligible. The edge in using electricity is being able to isolate, not disperse, the energy source. The sole focus hence is being able to use environmental and renewable sources to generate clean electric energy. The end-users need not worry about this though, just evaluate and pay for the energy consumed, clean energy that is.

The thing about motoring is that, it is a necessary convenience in the contemporary society, it is a de-facto component of social and urban development; this cannot be changed. The industry needs to understand that society needs nimble city-cars that are economical, so that the people can afford change; society needs full-electric cars, so that people can adopt by choice, the intention of safe-guarding the environment. These should not be 2 separate products, this should be one product; a full-electric city-car. This should be a beautiful product to reflect its ambition, and like the Fiat 500 or the Tesla Model S, beauty should sell innovation.

This is not the motoring industry’s ambition; this is motoring’s ambition.

1. Clarkson on the future, Top Gear.
2. DMC Delorean, chaos & career, Flickr.

There is 1 comment.
  • June 23, 2010 · 3:44 PM
    Jacky Liu posted:

    What a coincident that my name is Jacky Liu too. Anyway, was thinking to google myself and see what’s out there, there i saw your site so i clicked on it. Saw the first car and it reminded me my old car back in Australia. I was driving a Chrysler Lancer which is quite similar in look with the one that you posted.

    Well, really impressed your work here, keep up mate. By the way, i’m based in Malaysia working for one of the largest publishers in the industry. So i knew contents are very important to any reading material.

April 16, 2009 · 1 Comment
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