A numbers game
New Zealand is one of only a few countries that produces most of its electricity from sustainable sources. Look around the world, and you’ll find that most other countries rely heavily on coal, or even nuclear energy, to light, heat and power their cities, to drive their electric trains, and, yes, to charge their electric cars.
It’s a conundrum. Driving an electric car doesn’t make you a world-saver if the power comes from a carbon dioxide belching coal power station any more than does riding a bicycle and then eating fresh produce that’s been flown halfway around the world in an aircraft which uses fossil fuels.
And the batteries to drive these electric cars use materials which are mined all over the globe, using machinery driven by fossil fuels, and shipped to central points, using ships which burn fossil fuels, trucks which burn fossil fuels, and in many cases trains which burn fossil fuels.
I’ve said this before, but much more can be achieved in cutting down on carbon dioxide by producing more efficient internal combustion engined (ICE) vehicles than by producing electric cars whose power source is, to put it bluntly, tainted.
And that’s why savvy engineers are still trying to make ICE vehicles which are ever-cleaner, ever more frugal, and ever more acceptable.
One such example is covered by news of the Camcon IVA motor on page 24. It’s an engine which digitally controls every valve independently, leading to massive efficiencies. At the same time Bosch has already shown it can dramatically cut down on diesel emissions (see page 23 June issue), and Mazda and Nissan are already building engines which show huge savings compared to just a couple of years ago.
The future may well be electric, and we will be investigating all aspects of this, in real time using real people, in our regular “EValuation” column, which debuts on page 18 this issue.
But there’s also still a future for the internal combustion engine, provided we get the latest technology onto our roads, and the old gas guzzlers off them. Simply put, it’s a numbers game.