Five alternative fuel vehicles we've experienced
We've all known for years that alternative, zero-emission fuel is the way to go for the automotive industry, but our progress in this direction has been, at best, sluggish.
The two of the most viable green options - electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles (owing to their emission-free nature and abundance) - haven't really caught on, largely due to lack of infrastructure and the expensive nature of their implementation.
But a number of auto makers have invested a great deal on research and development of alternative automobile technology over the years, and the results are, slowly but surely, beginning to show. Recently in India, Tata Motors an ISRO showcased a fully functioning hydrogen-powered bus (read story here). On Monday, we reported that Hyundai's fuel cell powered electric iX35 has gone into production.
Team OVERDRIVE have driven/ridden a number of alternative fuel vehicles over the years. Here is what the team thought of their experience.
The Renault Twizy felt like a go-kart without engine sounds
The Twizy is my first electric car. I turned the ignition on and a small light appeared reminding me of my remote-controlled car. Drive mode selected, a slight tap of the accelerator instantly produced motion. I actually took part in the hill climb at Goodwood and so it was pedal to the metal. The speedo ended up reading 88kmph - 8kmph faster than rated - since it was downhill. It felt like a go-kart without engine sounds. I enjoyed every bit of the car; it's small, handles well and is quick off the block too. An ideal car for me and it would make so much sense in Mumbai traffic. I'd miss the smell of petrol, but the Twizzy can charge in an hour so it's also realistic.
The Nissan FCV is a multi-million dollar prototype
While the boys have ridden a few electric things, I've driven the Nissan FCV. At the F1 circuit in Shanghai! It was in turn one that two things hit home. First, the engineer pointed out that what felt like a normal but silent X-Trail was a multi-million dollar prototype, and vastly heavier than usual. And the other was that I was actually driving the future. When trees cooked underground would no longer be the lynchpin of global stability - politically, economically or environmentally. I was shocked that it felt completely normal. And this produced smiles, "The challenge," said the engineer, "is to make hydrogen cars feel normal. When we can do it, in performance and price, the future will have arrived."
The FCX Clarity makes no noise
The one detail that comes to mind when you talk about alternate fuel propelled vehicles, is not that they are environmentally friendly or emission free or expensive or sometimes ridiculous looking. No the biggest recall is that they make no noise at all. In fact, they are so quiet they'd put the Rolls Royce tagline - the only sound you hear is of the clock ticking - to shame.
Honestly, when I first drove the FCX Clarity in Japan, it was so quiet you could literally hear the sound of a bug flapping its wings. If you poked the throttle harder the electric motor sounded like the mixie that a housewife switched on 10 stories above your apartment. And just for the record the FCX isn't ridiculous looking at all!
The biggest hurdle for the E-Sprint was to climb flyovers
I was quite excited about the Hero E-Sprint's 45kmph top speed - double that of the competition. But first, I had to remove the battery and carry it up to my second-floor apartment to charge it for three hours. Then the E-Sprint wouldn't climb up the flyover outside my house, so I had to 'walk' the 140kg scooter up the flyover. Then the fully charged battery emptied after 20km and demanded an eight hour charge to continue. So I had to tempo the scooter home and charge it. Electric scooters are environment friendly but the technology has not advanced far enough yet. On the bright side, it did hit 45kmph.
The Reva's official 80kmph top speed was hard to achieve
Conventional wisdom suggests that if you have an electric car, drive it around town. So, I decided to drive a Reva from Pune to Mumbai to honour my scant regard for conventional wisdom.
I took it up as a challenge - driving something this out of place on the Expressway. Even as I drove at 50-55kmph - it does not even reach the official speed limit of 80kmph - I smiled each time a car zipped by. It somehow felt good to drive a zero-emission car. The drive took an hour more than usual - the time spent topping up the battery, not at a petrol pump but a Reebok Store in a food mall. I am convinced that if we can get faster e-cars with greater range, the sense of liberation will be stronger and vastly relevant.