Electric versus diesel — technology wins

Roman Danaev

Even such iconic marques as Daimler and BMW seem to be fighting a losing battle against a newcomer in the production of luxury cars.

The upstart in this particular case is the American car maker Tesla, owned and championed by the colourful Elon Musk.

What’s catapulting Musk’s vision into the lead and dragging the German manufacturers backwards is the technology and motor engineering of their respective vehicles — Tesla’s electric cars represent a vision of the future and reliance on the latest technology which is fast garnering the support of governments and customers alike.

BMW and Daimler, by contrast, seem to be rooted in the past, through their reliance not only on petrol-engined cars, but the most polluting variant of these, the diesel-engined vehicle.

In a last-ditch stand — and one almost certain to end in failure — German manufacturers Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen convened what they billed as a “diesel summit” at the beginning of August 2017, reported the Financial Times newspaper on the 2nd of August.

With the new, technologically advanced Tesla 3 reaching the market at a highly competitive price of around US$35,000, the American manufacturer has also thrown down the gauntlet to the costly offerings from Daimler and BMW.

The future of diesel

The stand being taken by the German manufacturers — once world leaders at the cutting edge of luxury motor engineering — are now for all the world striking a Canute-like pose at the water’s edge.

However powerful they might once have been in leading the way that other manufacturers followed, the tide has most definitely turned against diesel — and its fate seems inevitably and irrevocably sealed.

So-called “Clean Air Zones” have already been introduced in a number of British cities and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is actively encouraging their adoption in many other heavily-congested areas, said Auto Express magazine in an article on the 26th of July 2017.

Unless the designation of Clean Air Zones encourages greater uptake of less polluting vehicles and a greater switch to the use of public transport, says the article, diesel cars may need to be restricted to access to such zones by imposing charges at the most heavily-congested times of day.

The future is electric

Whilst the death knoll is sounding for diesel, on the other hand, the future of electrically-powered vehicles has never been brighter.

On the 26th of July 2017, for example, the Guardian newspaper reported the government’s decision to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by the year 2040 — in favour of those powered entirely by electric or zero-emissions rated vehicles.

This ushers in a whole new set of problems with respect to the infrastructure needed to support the exclusive use of electric vehicles – namely, a vastly expanded network of charging points and the capacity of the national grid to meet the increased demand for energy.

Once again, though, technology may come to the rescue as there is even research to suggest that the power stored in cars’ electric batteries might be up-loaded to the national grid to help smooth out variations in supply from wind farms and other renewable energy sources.

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