Here we go.

Posted on December 4, 2007


The one thing that makes me most uncomfortable about belonging to the modern society is my carbon-dioxide footprint. The second one is my household trash production. Although I can manage the latter with more and more efficiency as time goes by, it is much harder to control the former one. It makes me especially uncomfortable to drive a fossil-fuel powered car everyday to work, knowing that it wastes much more energy than it actually uses to propel me in my daily commute.

I’ve been intrigued by the technology of Hybrid vehicles for a long time now. As soon as the Toyota Prius hit the Portuguese market, I thought “I gotta get me one of those!!!”. And so I began to study it, both as a technological milestone and as a market trend setter.

Unfortunately, the Mechatronics engineer in me kept shouting “BULLSHIT!!” in the back of my head while I was reading through all the technical propaganda Toyota (and the other Hybrid makers) have put forth to dazzle us.

Yes, the new Hybrid cars are good, or at least they are better than the alternative (the same old gas burners). They give us more horsepower to play with, while spending less money on fuel, and they actually do reduce our environmental impact… a little. But it’s not enough, not by a long shot. The truth that became apparent (to me, at least), is that the auto manufacturers are simply not trying. As usual, they are just navigating the market needs. The people have shown a high interest in hybrids, so they put some half-baked incipient changes into a normal car, and throw it out the door for sale calling it a Hybrid.

The Prius (or more specifically, the “Hybrid Synergy Drive” transmission) is different from this; it in fact introduced a fundamental change in powertrain engineering and opened up a whole new world of driving experience to their owners, setting a market and technology leadership that others strive to follow. But you know what? I could do pretty much the same if I designed a car with a simple separate parallel hybrid drive. It wouldn’t look so sexy and innovative on the news, of course…

As I said, it strikes me as too little, too late. And if you don’t understand why I say this, then go watch “An Inconvenient Truth” (with great attention and respect) and “The Day After Tomorrow” (with a LARGE grain of salt) to get a good picture of the state of things and then come back to me. And while you’re at it, check out “Who Killed The Electric Car?” to see how the GM EV1 got crushed into oblivion 10 years ago only because it was better than expected.

We need extra strong carbon-dioxide release control, and we need it now.

Unfortunately, this environmental timetable does not fit in with the schedule of the auto industry – they’ve invested too much, over too long, to go and change it all overnight. Abandoning the fossil fuels as the main power source of the car is just as an abomination as abandoning the “lifestyle” we have accustomed ourselves to. There is a long road to make from here to clean transportation, and they’re not helping us fast enough. In my opinion, they won’t make the EV1 strategic mistake again: they will not market a state-of-the-art revolutionary technology that can save the environment today – that would ruin too many people’s business. As long as the impacts of global climate change don’t come knocking at their door, they will stick to their present path: fooling us all by waving the Hydrogen carrot in front of our noses while selling fossil-fuel burners disguised as “eco-friendly” products.

Well, here’s my message to you, auto makers: I’m tired of waiting for you guys to make the right thing. I’m building my own hybrid car starting now, and I’m aiming for perfection. As long as I can, I will strive to show that I can meet (and hopefully surpass) the performance of your expensive technology, simply by exercising good sense and hobbyist garage technology.

Don’t believe me? Then watch me…

Please note: I will be happier to fail in this mission, than to succeed. Because if I succeed, it means my pessimistic view is true. Either way, it will be a fun ride.

Posted in: Motivation