ELECTRIC DREAMS BECOMING REALITY

The transition from internal combustion engine to electric drive to power our cars is much more significant than it might seem. It will not only make our cars greener and less noisy, it will also help make the world a more collaborative and democratic place. The great thing about electric technology and electric motor drive is that it is fundamentally more simple to engineer and develop. It relies on well understood physical phenomenons that can be modeled on a computer and we have been using them for decades in pretty much every machine we have invented from fridges, dishwasher, washing machines, toys and even several electric motors to power your windscreen wiper, electric windows and seats in an internal combustion engined car.

In fact, the first cars were electric as it was the most straightforward solution to use at the time. Unfortunately, back then, the economics worked against electric power for cars as we could produce internal combustion engines (ICE) for much less money. But this is about to change again as electric drive will become cheaper than ICE engines. This fiscal crossover point is predicted to happen sometimes in the next five years, hence the rush towards developing new electric cars now, all ready for the market by 2020.

The ICE is not a very efficient power source. In fact, nearly half of the fuel burned in the engine is converted in heat and not really making our car move! It relies on complex and not altogether understood combustion mechanisms of fluids moving around in a small, turbulent chamber at very high speeds. Of course, the technology available today for ICEs is incredibly impressive even just looking back over the past 10 years,  however, these mechanisms are not easy to model with computers and are therefore expensive test benches are required to develop and refine these powerplants. We could call this development process black magic. At least it was for many years. This means that only a few companies with significant capital investment could develop ICE engines and by hiding away their secrets, they could gain a competitive economic advantage and sell more cars to the public.

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Now with the electric motors, things are different. To start with they are vastly more efficient. In fact nearly all of the electric power going into the motors is converted into mechanical power driving the wheels. Therefore there is little opportunity for companies to lock in a significant advantage by investing large capital into research and development. And this is a very good thing. It means that electric technology for cars will become a commodity, something that will drive costs down and make quality products accessible and affordable for a larger public, everywhere in the world.

Other benefits will include more reliable cars, less wearing and moving parts, better and smoother driving experience without gear changes. Even the battery cell technology is going to become a commodity thanks to the widespread understanding of cell chemistry. Again it will be difficult to lock in a significant technological advantage in batteries.

All this means that the competition on the marketplace between all the actors in the electric industry will not be in the labs and secret test centres, but more in the public branding and positioning that each company will develop. And this is where we think PROJECT 424 will be able to help partners get their message out in an effective, exciting and inspiring way.

Nic Perrin

Melissa Karadimos