Monday, July 6, 2009

The end of an era?

Its a few days before I will be leaving for the Carlisle, PA event known as The All-Chrysler Nationals and I'm reading an article in Wired about the new Bugatti Veyron convertible. A small car, 1001 HP, 235 mph top speed, 0 to 60 mph in 2.4 seconds and only costs 2.1 million dollars.

Nice car, I'll take two.

It was a line at the end of the article that caught my eye. "We're at the end of the petroleum era, the end of a golden age of supercars where speed can be sought regardless of consequence."

It's the first part of that line, We're at the end of the petroleum era, that got me thinking that it really is the beginning of the end of gasoline fueled cars as we move more toward the alternatives. I guess its the natural progression of improving something as science and technology make new breakthroughs year after year.

The automobile is the same. look at the different improvements since the autos inception. There were no paved roads early on unless you consider cobblestones. The tires and suspensions were designed for dirt roads that turned to mud and changed to accommodate hard paved or concrete roads. Advancements in safety with safety glass and seat belts where there were none. The use of plastics instead of wood products.

Engine and transmission design improved, syncro mesh manual transmissions and automatic versions were developed. Engines got bigger with more horsepower and were adapted for different uses.

Now, cars have gotten safer and get pretty good fuel mileage through the use of computer controls. There is more wire in a modern car than in five Model T's. But with all the improvements, does this mean the end of gasoline cars in the near future? I think Yes.

The current politically correct lifestyle is to "Be Green". So you have people adding solar panels to their homes and wind farms popping up in the mid west and people trading in their Hummer for a Prius.

I think its a good idea to save energy any way we can, and if the "Be Green" lifestyle helps further this its good for all of us. Many improvements over the years have dropped tail pipe emissions bringing us cleaner air. We can debate if electric cars will cause more pollution due to the batteries being made later, everything has waste. Global warming? Not going to get into that either. The goal? Better quality of life for as many of us as possible with the least amount of harmful waste.

Consider the technology we have currently available. Hybrid fuel/electric, all electric and fuel cell. In the next few years there will be more of these cars on the road than gasoline alone powered vehicles as the technologies improve each year. Reliability improves as does the public's acceptance of these automobiles.

It comes down to this. Gasoline cars will eventually become as extinct as dinosaurs, as will the fossil fuels that run them.

In a few days, I'll be looking over a sea of brightly painted warriors of the gasoline era, driving my own battered bruiser to the event, enjoying the smells and sounds of what a car is to me.

I know that this will not be the norm in the future as these cars will be seen as a detriment by some, vile and "un-green" by others and coveted by the rest of us. Will we become shunned for driving our gasoline powered monsters? Will I have protesters at my house because they know I harbor a known polluter?

With gasoline being un-available in the future, how will our kids enjoy these cars? Will they all become trailer queens or will there still be a single producer of gasoline for the collector car hobby. I would hate to see what 86 octane would cost per gallon then.

Yes, I think it is the beginning of the end of the petroleum era, the day the last gasoline only powered car is produced is still a ways off, but that day is coming.

But, as long as there's a gas station and a highway, I'm going to drive my gasoline powered Road Warrior, and you will know it was me when I pass you. You will hear the rumble of wide open secondaries from my engine and the sweet smell of my exhaust!

And don't even try to take my car with your "clunker laws".
"You can have my keys when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers!"