Electric or Oil Burning Vehicle? What is Your Choice?
EV (electric vehicle) annual sales in India recently crossed the one million mark with two-wheelers leading the way. And just after these figures were released, I was at a club with some friends and the conversation veered to whether EVs were the future and if the era of the internal combustion engine was actually coming to an end.
Electric vehicle sales are on the rise in India.
All those who had driven EVs, were greatly enthused with the response, acceleration and performance. Someone said he had never driven a car that took off so quickly. Another person spoke about the effortless power delivery and how the engine never felt strained. Which I found kind of ironic, as EVs don't have engines, but electric motors. What was obvious was that most of them were high on the instant and constant torque provided by electric vehicles. Several of them spoke about the smoothness and silence of EVs and how easy they were to drive. The practical ones touted the low running costs and also the possibly lower cost of maintenance, due to EVs having lesser moving parts like an engine, gearbox and so on.
More people are being drawn towards EVs.
The more environmentally conscious ones declared that the zero tailpipe emissions of EVs is much needed in today's polluted world and it would help clean our air and reduce our carbon footprint. One of them asked me, "You are the car guy. You have tested these cars. You also love both cars and nature. What do you think?" I said I fully agreed with almost everything they said or felt. But about electric vehicles being eco-friendly, I was still not completely convinced.
Many like the instant torque and swift acceleration of EVs.
We are constantly told that EVs are needed for the protection of our environment and reduction of pollutants. But to genuinely do this, they have to be charged by renewable sources of electrical energy like solar, wind, etc. Using coal burning power plants to charge EVs is just moving the pollution from the tailpipe, to the chimney of power plants. And the more EVs there are to charge, that much more electric energy will be required, so we will end up burning even more polluting coal! So will pollution really reduce? I am not so sure.
Others appreciate the low running costs and lack of tailpipe emissions.
EVs also use lithium ion batteries, which contain manganese, nickel, cobalt and so on. These metals are toxic and can severely contaminate our water and land, if they seep into them. Mining these metals, particularly lithium is also very taxing and needs lots of water, which anyways is getting scarce on our planet. And once the battery reaches the end of its life, it will have to be disposed of very carefully. Yes, there are very real environmental threats associated with lithium ion batteries and that is the reason scientists are continuously looking for an alternative.
EVs undoubtedly make some very convincing arguments.
Apart from all this, there is one more thing about EVs that doesn't quite make me a fan. Being a car lover and someone who truly enjoys driving, I am not enthused by the EV driving experience. Sure that instant acceleration, constant torque and on demand power is very appealing and initially even I succumbed and fully surrendered to its charms. And when I drove an EV on a racetrack for the first time, I realized how much faster I was than if I had been in an equivalent internal combustion engine powered car.
But in my view while EVs maybe fast, they are not really fun to drive.
However in my view, the lap times, or how fast you get from 0 to 100 kph is not as important as how it feels getting there. Yes, to me the fun factor matters more than the speed. The driving experience should not just be about speed, but excitement and involvement, and sensory and aural stimulation. In my opinion, the "number of smiles per mile" factor is most important.
In a conventional petrol or diesel powered car there is a buildup of power that makes the driving experience more involving.
Listen to any good song, poem, and hymn, or even read a nice book or watch a fine film, everything has a beginning, buildup and climax. For that matter everything in life has a rise, surge, peak and crescendo or culmination. In my view it's all about the climax. But this is missing in EVs, where the moment the motor is switched on; it can deliver its maximum torque and power. Unlike in an IC engine, there is no escalation or summiting of power.
Unlike EVs that can be eerily silent, fossil fueled cars have an engaging exhaust note.
In a petrol or diesel car you get a sense of moving parts, the engine breathing in and out, fuel burning and power being generated. There is a buildup of power and then there is the peak. You feel involved with this process. But in an EV all this is missing. It's only press and go. And the thing that seals the deal for me is the lack of an exhaust note. A nice sounding exhaust is soothing music for me.
Regular cars have so many more mechanical parts which make them communicative. But EVs talk far less.
And therefore as far as I am concerned, as long as I live, I want to keep driving conventional cars. What's more, I would also like my last drive on this planet, to be in a car with an intake and exhaust system. And of course a sonorous exhaust note. Vroom, vroom.
And due to all this, for me an internal combustion engine remains a piece of art and my power plant of choice.