Power for the cars of the future

Formula E drivers light up the streets as part of the inaugural all-electric night race for Diriyah

Formula E drivers light up the streets as part of the inaugural all-electric night race for Diriyah E-Prix, the first motor sporting event to attempt and successfully use high performance, sustainable and fully renewable LED lighting technologies - Credit: PR Newswire

Over the coming weeks, I will try to put forward reasoned comment and a balanced view on this inevitable topic which is affecting us all in one way or another.

Automotive battery power advances continue apace and even the hi-tech world of motor racing is embracing it with the new "E' formula single seater series, but more of that later.

There is no doubting the green credentials of battery power. It allows near silent travel with zero emissions which is particularly friendly within our cities.

Anyone who has been on a shopping trip to one of our large cities cannot fail to have been offended by the fumes and noise caused by traffic, especially the senseless pumping out of rubbish from stationary vehicle exhausts.

It is also unquestioningly jeopardising our health and those who live and work in cities have every right to be concerned. 

There can be no doubt that in urban conurbations, electric power has to be the way ahead.  

But where will this extra energy come from?

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A few years ago, Boris Johnson famously quipped on Top Gear that it just 'comes from the plug'.

However, I think we all know that to increase electric car usage, our power stations would need radical upgrading and of course, that will create further controversy with nuclear power or the renewables debate.

It was even suggested recently that there would need to be several new ‘Hinkley Point C’ power stations built to cope.

Well, that is not about to happen and the renewables targets just won’t do it either.

But think back to September 2000. The fuel crisis. Well, actually a tanker driver dispute that had our filling stations empty in days.

Our region was still in full 'holidaymaker' swing but no-one took the chance to drive here from 'up country' because they might not get the fuel for the return journey. The region suffered badly.

This same dilemma is what faces battery powered vehicle owners.

Where do they get a re-charge from and how long will it take to replenish the spent energy?

Another fundamental issue about battery power is the weight carried around. This does not diminish as you travel along.

It is, therefore, inherently inefficient to cart this mass around which in itself, uses up more energy.

If it becomes possible to exchange battery packs at 'battery stations' up and down the country, this might alleviate concerns of re-charging but still does not deal with the weight issue.

We must also consider the cost implications of recycling the battery when its time is up. 

Replacement battery packs are a huge cost to bear in mind since they are unlikely to last the life of the car.

‘Range anxiety’ will become a feature for all pure electric vehicles.

Should we dispense with the heater or radio and lights to save power?

Watching your power and range indicators might become obsessive and take all pleasure out of driving. 

And woe betide running out of power on a Smart Motorway at night.

It takes just 60 seconds to re-fuel a petrol or diesel car, and at a stroke, you have enough stored power for up to 700 miles.

It will still be there if you leave your car unattended for a month or more. This stored energy will take you to East Midlands Airport, and back again, after your two-week holiday in January despite whatever weather conditions are faced.

And there is enough range left in the tank for a trip to London.

Your car's economy increases as the fuel diminishes.

There is no added cost in recycling the car with a fuel tank either.

Petrol does it for me for the moment especially considering where we live.

Now, back to Formula 'E' motor racing.  That doesn't do it for me either.

The cars just sound like my old Scalextrix set.  I must be a petrolhead!