Many lamented the poor efficiency of modern gasoline cars up to a few years ago when bloated Detroit behemoths fared the same as they did 10, 20 and even 30 years ago. Unfortunately weight was the issue, as it has always been, and still remains the number one enemy of efficiency. If cup-holders and security features increased, so did weight, as well as gasoline engine efficiency. Unfortunately, it just never caught up enough to outweigh the consequences of the additional tonnage.
Something Good EVs Did For The Industry. The hardest thing to do in any industry is introducing a new technology. It’s expensive, it’s new, it’s unproven and... well, it’s expensive. The stalemate carmakers found themselves less than ten years ago was thankfully broken by a hard hit recession. In many ways, thanks to this recession, certain daring carmakers took the leap of faith to introduce the electric drive.
Back then, Nickel-Metal Hydrates was the best battery technology available but Chevron owning the patent was making it difficult to license. Lithium batteries were still in their infancy with a tendency to overheat. Yet at the same time, the fine tweaking of internal combustion engines’ fuel-efficient just couldn’t keep up with the added weight on cars.
The Electric Battery Challenge. Electric cars challenged car companies to making cars with sufficient range using only batteries. Obviously, lithium still has drawbacks, but the real problem is overcoming our weight issue, especially in the US. Cheap gas never helped and the relentless price climb at the pump was just enough, coupled with a recession to get to seriously start thinking about electric cars. Weight was the white elephant in the room carmakers finally had to tackle.
Making a cheap but light car is no easy task. This is what electric carmakers are finding and so far two companies have done an incredible work with aluminum, namely Tesla Motors and BMW. Not to say that Mitsubishi, Ford and Nissan haven’t. In their own ways, these three, including GM haven’t relied much more traditional methods yet still managed to produce great cars. But there is no doubt the future lies in aluminum and other lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber. The problem, as always is that of manufacturing.
In many ways, the introduction of electric cars has been revolutionary, in every sense of the word. Not only all the sudden carmakers had to become technology companies, but learn software, use lighter and more expensive metals and find more affordable ways of manufacturing other lightweight, tough materials. Electric cars give the opportunity of introducing not only a new technology, but the use of aluminum and carbon fiber, weight saving features that had to happen, but couldn’t have without a recession.