Recently I was asked to write an overview of the Tesla Model X. It’s very smart, both aesthetically and technologically, and is very much a clean, green electric machine. I was impressed with it – on paper at least – but my problem is that it does not run on petrol.
Electricity has always been a bit of a mystery to me, if I’m honest. I’m not sure I trust it entirely because, although I use it daily, I only have a vague idea of how it is made. I know only that it involves some form of magic and that scientists in Gothic castles attract it down from thunderous skies; that it comes out of the wall and that it lights you up like a beacon if you touch it.
I found this out as a child after a close encounter with a live washing machine that threw me across the kitchen so I know of what I speak. For some reason Mrs DriveWrite always finds that story amusing no matter how many times it is recounted and often comments darkly that it explains quite a lot.
Like many potential users I am of course concerned about the range issue of electric cars, although, to be fair, Tesla appear to be doing something positive about that. I guess this is one view of our automotive future and one that I will have to embrace, I suppose; but I am already missing those great cars of yore that were powered by proper petrol engines, complete with real-life emissions and all. When you fire up one of those old smoke-belchers, somewhere in the world a Prius dies.
I’m not alone (None of us are. Or are we?) in this. There still exists out there in sheds across the land a breed of men – those happy few – who still tinker with the stinkers of old. They get their kicks from electricity produced by ancient artefacts called dynamos. These produce the juice by way of a simple device driven by the engine that makes direct current electric power using electromagnetism. They were simple and they worked. Mostly.
(Here’s an interesting aside about our modern times: If you Google ‘dynamo’ now, you get images and facts about a weird looking geezer who is apparently a ‘magician’ and ‘entertainer’. Real dynamos have truly been consigned to history).
Time has moved on and there are very many motorists out there with cars that instead have an alternator producing the sparky stuff by utilising a rotating magnetic field with a stationary armature and all driven by the engine. I suspect that many young drivers (and some older ones) are completely oblivious of the existence of such a thing, and that’s the point.
Today’s motorists are increasingly ignorant of how the modern automobile works. In the same way that they just expect electricity to appear by magic through the walls so they expect their cars to just start and are bereft and lost when they don’t. The resultant costs are usually about the same size as an annual Utility bill too.
So, as previously mentioned, the future’s electric. Automotive fossil fuels will go the way of, well, fossils and we will rely increasingly upon electricity to power our cars and our world. Or hydrogen. Whatever. The sad fact is that some of you will never ever experience the pleasure of driving a classic car with all the attendant rattles, bangs, peculiar smells and billowing clouds of exhaust. You will never get the body-building experience of a car without power steering or the sense that you are indeed operating a piece of highly engineered, if flawed, machinery.
Your loss, although it doesn’t have to be that way. There are companies up and down the land that still operate small fleets of these old stagers. Great Escape Cars springs to mind. You can rent them by the day or weekend or week. They will probably work perfectly and you will, for a short period of time, experience the real joys of motoring and accumulate stories that you will be able to relate to your children. Tell them that those were indeed the days. Geoff Maxted