the electro assault



Electro is one of the mean characters in the world of the Marvel super-heroes and now it materializes in real life to disrupt a whole wealth of automotive engineering on the wave of pseudo-ecological idiocies. The Industry is kneeling to this scientific inconsistency, but the Industry must fight back, get all the numbers on the table to prove that bad faith politicians and eco-terrorists are wrong, the internal combustion engine, and the Diesel cycle engine in particular, are still the most efficient and rational solution to propel a car and a truck, no matter what Mr. Elon “Electro” Musk and his supporters proclaim.  



Remember the vastly publicized case of the progressively expanding hole in the ozone layer that surrounds the stratosphere? We have not heard much about it for the past couple of years and that was simply because the hole has been constantly shrinking back to its proper size. The life on Earth was no longer at risk, the layer of ozone was back on duty providing its most critical function of shielding all living beings from the Sun ultra-violet emissions, as the eco-catastrophists forecasted.  But the full recovery of the security function of the ozone layer would not be fashionable news, eco-catastrophism still is very much in fashion. Only NASA gave official announcement of the positive evolution. Now the improvised ayatollahs of ecology readjusted their sights on the Diesel cycle engine in what I would call the attack of Electro, the Marvel’s mean character. The Electro ideology attack took new momentum after the VW dieselgate ballooned from one average case of exhaust emissions manipulation into a bad ethics case and, rather than burning the VW-Audi Group top-asses that plotted it, the whole world put the Diesel cycle engine under fire. VW-Audi Group has a terrible responsibility in all this and should be punished for causing a huge damage to scientifically based motor engineering to slowly replace the most efficient Diesel cycle engine with meaningless battery powered electric motors.

Around mean character Electro quickly gathered a bunch of devout followers: the self proclaimed scientists of the likes of National Geographic and Discovery TV documentaries, activists from Greenpeace and the “green parties” all around Europe. The most toxics are the politicians at the European parliament pretending to be the savers of life on planet Earth in order to gain more support from the same green idiots, plus all the car manufacturers that are not particularly good at designing Diesel cycle engines and are well active in the domain fo hybrid and full electric propulsion systems. To prove this point Toyota was first to announce that they will quit production of their turbodiesel engines. No sweat, they can rest easy at Toyota, nobody’s gonna miss their not so good turbodiesel car engines. And I have no doubts adding to this list the lithium ions batteries guys, Mr. Elon “Tesla” Musk first, and more ecology ayatollahs. The mother of incompetents (and of idiots) is always pregnant. All of them just gathered around Electro and started putting all possible environmental blames on the Diesel cycle engine, in all its variations, throwing it into the swirl of the catastrophic environmental phenomena that are supposed to lead to the disruption of life on planet Earth. All these imitation-scientists have no scientific knowledge, first of all in thermodynamics, but they are very smart at dramatizing their fake statements, and that conquers the least competent side of the audience. Let’s put down a few, scientifically uncontestable points.

Our planet Earth offers us a very large reserve of energy in a variety of forms. Some renewable, like hydro, solar or wind; some in limited supply, like all fossil fuels, and uranium. As of now, we still rely mainly on fossil fuels to energize our transportation means: gasoline, LPG and NG, to feed Otto cycle, spark ignited piston engines, or diesel oil to fuel Diesel cycle engines. The Diesel cycle is the thermodynamically most efficient of all, the one that is closest to the theoretical energetic conversion cycle as calculated by Monsieur Sadi Carnot, an officer in the Napoleonic army and an artillery specialist who deeply analyzed the phenomena of combustion in his attempt to improve the ballistics of his cannons. It follows that the Diesel cycle engine is the one that best uses the Earth reserves of fossil fuels because it realizes the most efficient energetic conversion of the inhaled charge into propulsion power, thus it also delivers the best specific fuel consumption and the lowest CO2 emissions in relation to the performance generated. The superior thermodynamic efficiency of the Diesel cycle engine is directly related to the higher compression ratio it can safely run at.

Compression ratio is the most relevant parameter participating in the definition of thermodynamic efficiency. In addition, the Diesel cycle engine burns lean, no problems, while the spark ignited engine must run stoichiometric not to end up with holed pistons. Equally, the Diesel combustion cycle can recycle into re-combustion a much larger percentage of its own exhausted gases than the spark ignited engine allows to. The Diesel cycle is super efficient, and thus it generates the least of CO2 and since the eco-catastrophists seem to charge the individual transportation of the largest responsibility in the growing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, they should cheer at the Diesel cycle engine, not send out Electro to fight it. If CO2 is the problem, we better look into it with more open mentality, since any combustion of a carbon based fuel generates CO2, including that chunk of wood in that romantic fireplace in your dining room.

Thermo-electric power-plants are the real guzzlers of all sorts of carbon based fossil fuels: carbon, all the grades of oil, natural gas. The whole world is in demand of ever more massive amounts of electric energy and to get it we burn fossil fuels. Burning non renewable fossil fuels is irrational, a real waste of a great wealth that planet Earth accumulated in eons, we better keep that in mind, but for the time being it still is the most generally utilized energy producing technology. China burns enormous amounts of any fuel to feed its immense appetite for energy, but nobody blames China. The damn eco-idiots and their political friends in Brussels blame our cars. Once EU reached the extreme limits of euro 6 regulation, the euro lawmakers embraced all the most radical environmental theories imposing growing amounts of electric propulsion for all. Any radical approach to face any problem is the most inconsistent way to proceed in that it ignores a relevant variety of factors. In the case of massive resorting to electric propulsion by batteries the list is substantial:

  • Amount of CO2  generated by complex lithium-ions batteries production
  • Availability of lithium
  • Disposal of exhausted batteries
  • Capability of electric energy grids to face massively increased demands
  • Influence of electric energy production technologies on the environment
  • Practical limits of electric propulsion in terms of range and recharging times

None of these factors is ever mentioned when a full switch to electric propulsion is being discussed, but we have the obligation to be realistic and scientifically analyze all the options. Back in 1996 General Motors unveiled the first full electric propulsion car ever to enter (limited) production, the GM EV1, and in that occasion General Motors CEO Roger Smith realistically stated that “if when recharging the batteries of this car we use electricity produced by burning fossil fuels, we are back to square 1”. A couple of months ago FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne reaffirmed the same concept. And that is absolutely correct since there is no shortcut to the demand of propulsive energy. To realistically establish how things really work, a scientific team rigorously analyzed and compared the amount of CO2 globally generated by the production and driving of an electrically powered compact car, and by the same car powered by its standard euro 6 Diesel cycle engine.

The “super-clean” electro version generated slightly above 100g/km while the “dirty” one remained below that limit. The green-fanatics will scream “cheat-cheat” but that is all certified. Flabby Europe is collapsing under the pressure of biased media and rotten politicians and already starts to trade its excellent Diesel cycle cars in for electro-hybrids or fully electric cars of various kinds: it’s the painful surrendering of civilization to fashion and demagogy. Realistically, only “mild-hybrid” has a real sense in view of a reduction of fuel consumption and related emissions.

This was the original concept: an electric motor assisting the internal combustion motor to reduce fuel consumption, and emissions, in urban traffic, and then doubling as generator and starting motor, the whole thing integrated in a high voltage electric system completed by a lithium-ions battery of no more than 3 kW/h. The whole package does not penalize the overall weight of the car, which is a fundamental factor to keep in mind because extra weight is always a huge technical mistake. The mounting fashion of “plug-in” hybrid cars, featuring 16+ kW/h strong battery packs and an additional electric motor for propulsion, is offensively inconsistent because these models are overweight and handle much worse than the same cars with pure endothermic propulsion.

The pure electric, long range (350 “real” km) cars are sour jokes that never deliver the announced 450 km, they are awfully heavy and I do not care if they still deliver bright acceleration from standing start. If you evaluate their cost, their recharging times, their battery replacement costs, the logic conclusion is that battery powered electric propulsion remains of limited practicality and dubious environmental merits.

But Electro is criminally protected by the European authorities: electro-cars can cheat about their performances, first of all range, at homologation. Manufacturers never detail how they achieve it, at what speed, is never disclosed. They cheat like hell! Any internal combustion engine powered car must go thru a strict homologation procedure and in case the manufacturers announces fuel consumption numbers more optimistic than real, they are hung in the main square.

Big names of the automotive Industry are announcing their decision to join Formula E. Have you ever watched a Formula E race from real, from the stands or the pits? That’s the biggest bore in the sport, technically meaningless, absurd and leading to nowhere. A waste of money and of good engineering.

Electric propulsion is not a bad idea, the bad idea is to do it by batteries. It must be done by fuel cells. But to get there it takes another good dose of open mindedness. Stupidity kills civilization and progress, and we have a very large supply of idiots these days.  But there is still hope. Here the likes of Mrs. Merkel and Miss Raggi are shutting the cities to the circulation of Diesel cycle engines powered cars, but in good ole’ USA the Diesel cycle engines are enjoying solid and very promising success.

New latest technology units are being developed and are going into production at General Motors, Ford, and at the Chrysler makes of FCA Group. By the way, in Italy FCA is going to kill its production of excellent Diesel cycle engines. The fight to rebuff the assault of mean Electro character is going to be long and tough, but real scientific principles and good engineering will win.

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