If you think about it, it is amazing that we still use fire and metal and gasoline and oil to get about. These days we have cellphones that recognize our faces and finger prints and even measure our heart rate. We have facilities that can smash protons together and then study the debris to reveal the secrets of the universe. We can land a probe on a comet for heaven’s sake. And yet …
In spite of all our advancements in science and technology, the internal combustion engine has stubbornly remained as it was first conceived more than a hundred years ago. Relative to other contemporary inventions, the ICE has remained positively primitive. It is still suck, squeeze, bang and blow which, apart from sounding pornographic, is a lot of faff. You turn a key, or push a button, which engages an electric motor that turns the crank. That action in turn moves the pistons up and down and sets in motion a great numbers of things. The fuel, water and oil pumps get engaged, the valves begin a harmonious dance in which they smash themselves head-first into the cylinder-head multiple times every second, and gears inside the transmission begin clawing at each others’ faces in a bath of oil.
Suffice it to say, it is a wasteful operation.
To be sure, that is not to say that the internal combustion engine was a stupid idea and to shut eyes on all the years of faithful service it has provided us. But there is no getting away from the fact that it does not fit in the equation the way it used to. Having a sleek, modern car that can talk to the satellites and practically drive itself with a gasoline engine is kind of like having an iPhone with a rotary dialer. It all feels very crude for this day and age to make energy by burning stuff and returning its waste back to where we got the stuff in the first place in form of harmful gases.
I should probably point out that this is not some hippy, crazy environmentalist rant about protecting the earth and atmosphere and baby ducks. They have been around long before we came along, and they will continue to be around long after we vanish. It is just telling it like it is. These days we have the technology to come up with simpler, more efficient ways of getting about. What is called for is a strong, unwavering determination to address the issues of those technologies and make them mainstream. A lot of it, of course, falls to the end users to change their habits and embrace the new ways and put up with some initial difficulties in order to reap the enormous benefits of those ways down the line – kind of like the transition they went through switching from flip phones to smartphones.
As for the fate of the internal combustion, it is not likely for it to be consigned to museums and history books just yet. It has a lot of life left in it. Most likely gasoline-powered cars of today will become like horses of yesterday. The rubbish ones will die out; the good ones will be used recreationally. So you will be able to go to work in your electric or hydrogen-powered car (or potato-powered, or air-powered – who knows), and take the old gas guzzler out in the weekends to have fun with. That sounds like a good deal to us.