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Last Updated : Jan 01, 2019 07:57 AM IST | Source:

Grimly bright: The battery-operated future of IC Engines

While electric vehicles have all the eco-friendly and economical advantages, the world has a long way to go before unleashing the true potential of these silent assassins.

Moneycontrol News @moneycontrolcom
Representative Image
Representative Image

Before the first functional car engine was produced, people were struggling to get more power, to go faster on their vehicles. With the advent of the first Internal Combustion (IC) engine in the 19th century, new possibilities opened up for car manufacturers who were looking to get the maximum out of a minimum, that is maximum power while occupying as little of the vehicle as possible. Eventually, car engines were standardised, and manufacturers were open to experiment with it to create their own iteration of the classic ICE.

As times rolled by, the supporting components of an ICE improved radically too. Manual carburetors were replaced by electronic fuel injectors, natural air cooling was switched out for oil cooled, or liquid cooled heat dissipation systems. From the traditional piston-crank engine, a certain German engineer even deviated in the erstwhile unexplored region of rotary engines, with the DKM Wankel engine becoming the first rotary engine to be mass produced for cars. This gave rise to yet another competition; engine sizes.

While most European manufacturers like to boast of massive figures, like the V12 Turbocharged engine of Lamborghini Aventador, or the massive W16, supercharged engine of the Bugatti Chiron. Other manufacturers like the Japanese Mazda, or Nissan, prefer to pack a big punch in a small packet. Rarely exceeding an engine size 2 litres, with Mazda specializing in 1.3-1.7 litre rotary engines for their lineup. This has led to a tremendous competition across the seas, to see who really makes the best cars in the world.

While the rest of the world was engaged in the IC engine battle, American company Tesla was quietly preparing an era of their own. In 2008 came the radicalizing Tesla roadster, which upturned the entire competition among car manufacturers. What began as a competition of making the best IC engine shifted to electric cars almost overnight. Almost everyone stepped in the electric car parade, each coming up with their own version of battery-operated vehicles.

While the basic essence of the competition, to produce the fastest car possible, remained the same, the entire crux of the competition shifted from making great engines to go with supporting machinery, to building entire cars around a battery box. Since batteries are used an alternate source of energy to fossil fuel, the entire blueprint of cars changed.  Instead of the usual mid, front or rear engine set ups like earlier, battery operated cars started coming with actual Lithium ion cells, in a huge quantity, to help them run. This was not the most well thought out plan, as was evident with the horrific crash of a complete electric supercar, the Rimac Concept One.

In an episode of popular BBC series Top Gear, automobile journalist Chris Hammond was driving a Rimac Concept One to compete with the Lamborghini Aventador and the Honda NSX. Going a little more aggressive than needed, Hammond ended up crashing and totaling the car. The tragedy that followed was that because it was an electric car, it was powered by Li-ion cells instead of the conventional IC engine. So, while Hammond managed to escape alive, the car wasn’t so lucky. The car spontaneously burst in flames causing the extremely heat sensitive Li-ion cells to burst into flames.  And because there were a mind blowing 8000 cells in the car, the fire went on burning for five straight days.

While electric vehicles have all the eco-friendly and economical advantages, the world has a long way to go before unleashing the true potential of these silent assassins. Till then, ICE all the way!
First Published on Jan 1, 2019 07:57 am
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