Friday, 1 June 2012

Cars of the Future - Part 2

A while ago I told you how car companies Smart, Renault and Nissan were all releasing electric cars this year. Electric cars with realistic range and power, not just token gestures for showrooms and trade expos. We examined the adverts and ultimately concluded that I want a spaceship. But it has to be a good spaceship with faster-than-light travel and everything.

This will also suffice

Anyway, the paradigm shift continues after the click!

There are other car companies bringing out their own electric car adverts! They’re not as good as the Smart one, which had my geek-drool pooling on the floor, but they’re pretty good.

Look at this 1-minute-long clip that shows off the BMWi (because putting an ‘i’ on a thing is how you tell people it is modern). These are merely car concepts that are actually on a global tour of trade expos at the moment, but check out what they look like.

The cars look pretty amazing and futuristic but they wouldn’t last one second on the actual street before someone vandalized them – probably me. Apparently having passers-by scrape keys down the side of your car is a huge problem for Ferrari owners, so can you imagine how badly it would go for these impressive BMW cars. Yeah I’ll piss on your vehicle, you smug touch-screen-wearing dick. I bet you’d just love to lay down and have sex with your better-than-LED headlights, eh? Well, I got there first!

The reason it looks so angry is because I stuck my dick in its eye

Anyway… the huge problem with electric cars at the moment is the lack of serious infrastructure to support them. Petrol cars can rely on petrol stations dotted around the entire world (that’s what we call gas stations in the UK), but when your car runs out of power in the middle of the countryside, how do you walk back to the last charge-station to fetch a tank of lightning? While being pursued by wolves and axe-murderers? This is why the most sensible electric car adverts are emphasising the range. Check out the electric car from Vauxhall - the Ampera!

Something about cars or something, I no longer care. Hello ladies!

European Car of the Year, 2012. Nice. The 360 mile range gives you plenty of distance to escape inbred mountain-folk who want to eat your family. The parallel with deep-sea divers and mountain climbers in the advert really hammers the point home. This might be my second-favourite electric car advert! It also started with a reference to the charging station, which is something that none of these adverts have included yet – so that's some extra progress. On their website they say you can charge it from a standard 240v socket which is surreal but brilliant.

The BMW i3 model is 100% electric. The Vauxhall electro-car is only a hybrid, despite how enthusiastically they’ll let you believe the extensive range is entirely electric. On one hand I love the advert so much that I feel slightly betrayed. On the other hand the Vauxhall electric engine is apparently twice as efficient as the famous Prius – giving you a range of 25-50 miles instead of 15 miles before the petrol engine kicks in.

Now let’s look at the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Two lower case i's indicates that this car is EVEN MORE MODERN!

So you're telling me that somewhere in there, there's an engine?

Wait, no, not modern at all! Did you watch the advert? See how Mitsubishi is homely and quaint? No need to fear the giant industrial mega-corporation! Using some friendly shots of Small Town USA, a town called ‘Normal’, with ice cream parlours, baseball mascots and neon-lit signs for local cinemas, electric cars are transformed into something friendly, mundane and indeed… normal. They might even be powered by ukulele music, who can say?

Mitsubishi is also installing charge stations across the whole town of Normal. This is a bold investment in social engineering but if I lived in that town I probably wouldn’t appreciate it. Interesting data generated by this experiment in town planning may inform the future infrastructure of larger towns like London and New York. Sure it might be a ridiculous publicity stunt but this silly idea may well shape something important.

Electric stations alongside petrol stations are certainly the way forward. While the US state of California is apparently leading the way with over 500 electric stations, you also have to compare that to the number of petrol/gas stations they have.

Texas has 400 as of 2011, but on the other hand it had 16,500 gas stations in 2006

My point was that there’s still no advert that compares to the Smart Car parade of geeky dreams. But while making that point I found out more and more about futuristic cars. The more I find out, the more I’m convinced that I don’t know enough about them. Everyone buying an electric or hybrid car needs to do extensive research, which is discouraging – especially when second-hand fuel-farting rust-buckets are cheaper and simpler to understand. Operational costs for hybrid vehicles are like four times as complicated to figure out, and if you start factoring in the carbon footprint and resource cost of manufacturing the actual vehicles and the power to charge them then you start to wonder whether any of this really means anything.


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