The internal combustion engine has been with us in a practical form since about the late 1800’s, or thereabouts. After that, almost our entire industrial culture has been built around it in some form or another, most recognizable as a means of transportation for the supply of goods, as a personal way to travel, and as a fundamental element in the waging of war. Without the internal combustion engine, each and every one of us would be living in an Amish paradise.
Now, for all of its wonderful advantages, the internal combustion engine has some serious drawbacks that human-kind has been willing to put up with. The first one is that it pollutes the air. This has never been that big of a deal until scientists began to see that our atmosphere began to become effected by all the garbage spewing out of the worlds tailpipes. The second is that we are slowly running out of the oil needed to make gasoline to run our internal combustion engines. Oil is not infinite, and there is going to come a time when it runs dry.
The United States used to be the largest producer of gasoline from North American oil wells. But there isn’t enough oil anymore in the US, so we are importing almost 70% of the oil needed to make gasoline. Therein lies the third problem with internal combustion engines: the reliance that the US and most everyone else has on foreign oil imports.
Well, I hate to break it to you all, but the times they are a changing. And that change is coming with the Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery pack.
Right now, the Li-Ion batteries are first generation power cells with room to grow. There are fledgling car companies out there like Tesla, to name just one, that produces an automobile powered solely by these batteries, which gives outstanding performance and an incredible 240 mile range before recharge. Of course, you’ll pay for this technology to the tune of about 100 grand to have one in your garage, but Li-Ion batteries are about to go mainstream in cars for about 1/3rd the price.
Enter the Chevy Volt. This is a true electrical hybrid model that uses its electric motor first and a small gasoline engine as a back up, all thanks to the Li-Ion battery pack. The electrics will give you about 40 miles of run time and after that, the gas engine will power-on to charge a generator and keep the electric motor running. It is slated for 2010 production and promises to be a revolutionary automobile.
But that’s not all. How about the Volkswagen L-1. Essentially the same idea as a Volt with the exception that it uses a turbo diesel engine instead of a gasoline powered type. This car is very close to production as well, possibly 2011, and it is in many ways the German equivalent of the Volt.
What we have here are essentially the first of the major automakers that are taking the electric powered car seriously. Drive them around all day and plug them in at night to refuel. If you never exceed their 40 mile electric range, you’ll never buy gasoline again. And as Li-Ion batteries become more popular and production increases, the price will go down and other automakers will toss their hats into the fray. It’s only going to get better.
Right here and right now, this is the revolution of electrical power that is going to kill the internal combustion engine as we know it. Yes there may be iterations of an internal combustion engine that burns ethanol, hydrogen or some other non-polluting fuel in the future, but gasoline powered engines are on their way out.
Get ready all you Mind Petalers, the change is coming, and it is going to be good!
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