ELEC­TRIC NIGHT­MARE

If ev­ery car in the fu­ture is elec­tric, the only thing en­thu­si­asts will be able to do then is rem­i­nisce about the good old days, laments our se­nior writer.

Torque (Singapore) - - VOLKSWAGEN SPECIAL - JEREMY CHUA

BE­FORE you de­clare me a Lud­dite, let me state that I am not against tech­nol­ogy or progress.

I like my full-HD TV, and will prob­a­bly up­grade to a 4K model in a few years. I love how my new lap­top, which has an SSD and 16GB of RAM, loads ev­ery­thing al­most in­stan­ta­neously.

I also use an elec­tric tooth­brush be­cause it’s way more ef­fec­tive at pre­vent­ing cav­i­ties than a man­ual one.

How­ever, there are cer­tain things that I pre­fer do­ing the old-fash­ioned way, even if they are con­sid­ered by many to be more “trou­ble­some”.

For in­stance, af­ter I re­dis­cov­ered how nice it is to write with a foun­tain pen, I promptly bought three. Be­cause you don’t ap­ply any pres­sure to the pa­per,

the ex­pe­ri­ence isn’t just smoother – it’s pain-free, too. When it comes to shav­ing, I’ve ditched chem­i­cal-filled shav­ing gels and hor­ren­dously over­priced multi-blade car­tridges in favour of nat­u­ral shav­ing soaps/creams and dou­ble-edge (DE) ra­zor blades. The lat­ter com­bi­na­tion de­liv­ers smoother, closer and ir­ri­ta­tion-free shaves.

But while we’ll al­ways have a choice when it comes to shav­ing and writ­ing in­stru­ments, I’m afraid that we’ll only have elec­tri­cally pow­ered au­to­mo­biles to choose from in the fu­ture.

Driven by our dwin­dling and ir­re­place­able oil re­serves, the re­lent­less march towards eco-friend­li­ness will in­evitably lead to this con­clu­sion: The days of the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine are num­bered.

I re­alise the need for cleaner en­gines and al­ter­na­tive fu­els. But as a car lover, what I can­not ac­cept is the fact that all elec­tric motors have the same power de­liv­ery char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Even en­gi­neers I’ve spo­ken to ac­knowl­edge that cur­rently (no pun in­tended), there’s no way to make one elec­tric mo­tor feel dif­fer­ent from an­other.

Elec­tric motors de­liver im­me­di­ate thrust ac­com­pa­nied by a whirring, tur­bine-like sound. Re­lease the ac­cel­er­a­tor and the “en­gine brake” (re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing) will slow down and stop the car.

The only dif­fer­ence be­tween elec­tric cars is de­ter­mined by how pow­er­ful the mo­tor is. The sound­track doesn’t change. It doesn’t mat­ter if the car is a Tesla Road­ster, Nis­san Leaf or BMW i3.

So, when in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines only ex­ist in mu­se­ums, what will dif­fer­en­ti­ate one car brand from an­other? Some say that it will boil down to a ve­hi­cle’s de­sign. Oth­ers have men­tioned that it will be the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence that a brand de­liv­ers.

Dread­fully, we have to ac­cept the fact that an elec­tric fu­ture will also mean au­ton­o­mous cars. When soft­ware and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence are fi­nally smart enough to de­liver zero ac­ci­dents/fa­tal­i­ties, gov­ern­ments may pass laws that for­bid peo­ple to drive.

I sup­pose I can al­ways re­view a ve­hi­cle’s driv­ing soft­ware as a pas­sen­ger, then.

But car nuts will never let go of the fact that the en­gine is the heart of a car and plays a ma­jor part in de­ter­min­ing its ap­peal and char­ac­ter.

Think about how dif­fer­ent a 3-cylin­der mo­tor is com­pared to a 4- or 5-cylin­der unit. Think about how dif­fer­ent a V6 is from an in­line-6 or flat-6. Re­call how a V10 sounds com­pared to a V12.

And lest I forget, think about what dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers have done to the beloved V8. Some mar­ques make them scream. Oth­ers make them growl and rum­ble. What­ever sporty sound a V8 makes, it is mu­sic to a petrol­head’s ears.

But when all cars on the road are elec­tric, the only noises we will hear are the soft rum­bling of tyres and the chirp­ing of birds. And in all like­li­hood, we will hear th­ese sounds as pas­sen­gers in driverless pods.

Yes, our air will prob­a­bly be cleaner and our sur­round­ings, even greener. But for en­thu­si­asts who per­pet­u­ally yearn to hear roar­ing en­gines and rorty ex­haust notes, I’m afraid that our au­to­mo­tive fu­ture will be a stale elec­tric night­mare.

Volt me­ters only tell you the charge level, whereas fuel gauges let you know how much more fun you can have.

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