Every so often, my left brain needs a chance to voice its opinion. This is one of those times.
So the year is now 2017, which isn’t really that mind blowing. Time moves steadily and predictably forward, bringing change and new ideas.
Ironically, the machine we all use to move around in hasn’t seen much change. I mean let’s be honest, what car today is really that innovative and new? When you examine its main purpose, the modern vehicle is basically the same as it was 60 years ago. Sure, we’ve made the internal combustion engine more efficient and lighter (well if VW’s little fiasco of 2 years ago is any indication, the use of “efficient” here is a strongly relative term). We’ve added a dizzying array of sensors and chips to regulate and control just about everything from the intake to the differential to the transmission. Not to mention, the interior of any vehicle made in the last seven years has been laden with lots of tech goodness. Anymore, you would be hard pressed to find a new vehicle with just a basic radio, let alone one without a DSP enabled sound system.
With all the modern features though one thing still remains, the engine is still a gas guzzling explosion machine that is only 35% efficient at best. That’s right, 65% or more of the fuel you put in your car is wasted energy! What’s more, the thing needs lubricants and an intricate cooling system to avoid overheating. As a Sci Fi junkie, I always dreamed that we’d be driving around in some fusion powered, year 3000 crafts at this point. Though my aspirations for transportation surpass the average automaker these days.
Then there’s the fluctuating gas prices. Most of us have to refill the gas tank once a week and all of us hate it. We drill and export crude oil and tear up ecosystems to do it. Eventually, all the oil will be extracted, refined and used up.I could get into the exhaust emissions issue, but I won’t.
We are well overdue for an alternative. Thankfully, there is a strong, viable one…the asynchronous AC induction motor.
What is the asynchronous induction motor you ask? Its the power source for the Tesla S, Tesla Roadster and soon newer versions of the Toyota Prius. Originally designed and patented by none other than Nikola Tesla himself, this motor is all electric and all power! I can’t speak for the Prius, but Tesla cars are well known for their sports car grade performance. I may be drinking the TM cool aid a bit here, but seriously, when you compare the engine (and power transmission requirements) of the Roadster to a conventional IC engine, the better choice is painstakingly clear.
The AC induction motor in the Roadster has a one gear transmission with one drive unit. The maximum amount of torque you can send to the wheels is actually sent to the wheels. This translates to the AC induction motors being a whopping three times as efficient as the conventional IC. Of course this also means there is no need for shifting, making it easy to accelerate without any sudden jumps to another gear.
Need horsepower in your gas free motor? The Roadster is rated at a competitive 288 horsepower and the motor’s 295lb-ft of torque is available from a stand still to close to 6,000 RPMs! In fact, this much torque is half the reason the car has a single speed gearbox. When connected to a conventional multi-gear transmission, the motor’s incredible torque literally destroys it!
Unlike the synchronous induction motors currently powering most hybrids, the asynchronous induction motor doesn’t require an expensive permanent magnet. The rare earth metals (rare for a reason) required for these magnets don’t need to be mined as a result. Another advantage to being magnet free is that the motor can freewheel without any back voltage, if excitation from an inverter is taken away.
The induction motor is much lighter than the conventional IC, adding to its efficiency. The average IC engine weighs 350lbs/158kg, the Roadster’s engine weighs 115lbs/52kg. Other lightweight hybrids and electrics have to contend with the added weight of cooling a permanent magnet. For the asynchronous induction motor, this isn’t a concern. Cooling the induction motor can be done passively, eliminating the need for a water pump, radiator, and the pipes needed to transfer the water around. On top of that, the asynchronous induction motor can withstand a wide range of temperatures.
The Roadster is rated to go from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds. In actual tests, the Roadster beat high end Mercedes and BMW performance cars.
Opponents of electric motor power will tell you the battery is its Achilles heel. You have to charge it, and it eventually degrades to the point of needing replacement. Predictably, they don’t bring up the wear and tear that mandates replacement of many parts in a conventional IC.
The battery in Tesla vehicles is not the crutch you may have been told it was. Its actually rated (according to expected usage measurements) to last for 8 years before needing replacement. The warranty for these even states that Tesla Motors will replace it if it dies within 8 years or is defective. They want to guarantee continued quality of the battery, so every evening performance statistics are collected from their cars and they run a battery performance assessment. If some cars are degrading noticeably faster than others, TM will contact the customer and request that him/her come to a service center for a battery inspection and possible replacement.
You have to factor in the added utilities cost that comes with charging these vehicles at home, but its much easier to come up with alternative ways to generate electricity than it is to, oh I don’t know, refine your own crude oil into gasoline!
If you don’t care one iota about car engine performance, I should at least tell you how cutting edge the interior of these vehicles is. The dash includes a 17 inch touchscreen to control navigation, climate and media. The interiors also include a HEPA filter for maximum air quality. Even self driving capability is baked right into the vehicle.
Considering all this, the decision should be easy. Now if only Tesla can bring down the price of these awesome alternatives.
With Toyota, Honda and others hot on the tail of TM with their own innovative new options, we should finally see a shift in the market toward the asynchronous induction motor (and hopefully more competitive pricing). In my humble opinion, it should be the norm here in 2017.
To the future!