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In My Opinion - John Swift

In My Opinion - John Swift


Ex-racing driver and Motoring journalist, John Swift gives his opinion on current motoring issues.

I think it’s fascinating to see the exponential growth in young technologies, how one gain, fuels an even bigger gain at the next stage of its development.

Plot improvements on a graph, with time one side, and efficiency/performance on the other and the curve doesn’t climb evenly, it bends upwards as new breakthroughs deliver much bigger returns for the end user with ever shorter gaps between them.

So it is with electric car technology, the fuel for our next generation of cars.

Just this month Audi proved the efficiency of its regenerative braking technology for its forthcoming e-tron range. Regenerative braking is where the car captures some of the energy normally lost when the brakes are applied, pumps it back into the battery and this can account for as much as 30% of the battery range.

Well, a few weeks ago and using an SUV, Audi demonstrated just how good its new system will be by driving down the famous Pikes Peak hill-climb course in Colorado.

This course is steep and winding, so the brakes were used a lot, but for every kilometre driven downhill the system pumped back enough energy to add almost another kilometre of range. In other words the driver could have got to the bottom, turned around and gone back up again and had almost as much energy in the battery when he got there as when he started.

Audi e-tron at Pikes Peak testing regenerative braking

OK, not everyone drives down steep, winding roads every day, but it was a hugely impressive and exciting demonstration.

Staying in America, a little-known tech company called Sila Nanotechnologies is working on a new material it says should give a massive improvement in battery performance, perhaps of the order of up to 15%. And its partner in this? BMW…

Wherever you read you will come across more evidence, credible evidence, of gains not just of one or two percent, but big steps which very soon will give electric cars the sort of range and recharging time we expect of today’s petrol or diesel cars.

And won’t that be a game changer!

The world is changing fast. Electric vehicle (EV) technology is not yet fully mature, but demand for them is rocketing. In the first quarter of this year the colossal markets of China and Japan both more than doubled sales of pure EV against Q1 in 2017 and when you take in hybrids as well, those with a petrol or diesel and an electric motor, sales worldwide were up by more than a fifth.

True, these are percentage figures, not overall volumes which still look small against those for petrol/diesel but what is so impressive is the rate of change, the speed with which drivers are switching from the old to the new forms of power.

And when you see what companies like Audi are doing to make technology that not so long ago was science fiction into the everyday mainstream, when you see the growth in the recharging infrastructure matching the gains in battery efficiency, you begin to think that maybe your next new car should be an electric one.

Back in the 1980s people laughed at the ‘yuppies’ being weighed down by house-brick sized, expensive and largely useless mobile phones and look what’s happened since….

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