I always had a big passion for technology and I am very excited to be living in this day and age because of how fast things are moving. A decade ago self driving cars, smart phone, tablet computers all seemed more science fiction than reality but in today’s world they are very real. You can buy cars that can do parallel parking by themselves! You can whip out your phone and share pictures to hundreds or even thousands of people in an instant! One of the things that excite me the most however is the upcoming transition to all-electric cars. The Tesla Model S and the soon to be released Model X are prime example of what is possible and what I think we will all be driving in the near future.
As cool as Tesla’s cars are, there is still something that is bothering me. Why aren’t there more cars like the Teslas? Or even simply why aren’t all car Hybrids already? While Teslas are still prohibitively expensive and cheaper electric cars like the Nissan leaf simply aren’t as good performance wise, Hybrid technology seems to have been perfected and ready to be implemented. Even Ferrari and Porsche made Hybrid supercars. There are no real drawback and several big advantages to Hybrids: better fuel economy and lower emissions for example. Why aren’t we all driving Hybrids then?
Heck what about bioethanol? My car has a flex fuel system that would allow me to run on it but I haven’t seen a single gas station that sell the stuff…
You would also think that with all the profit the car companies make, they would have spent quite a bit on research for electric cars, and yet don’t really have anything to show for it. Toyota and Honda have been talking about hydrogen cars for years and still seem to be nowhere near a realistic production model. I remember being in Middle school and hearing about hydrogen powered taxis and busses to be used for public transport in Japan, but that never happened. Even the upcoming Toyota Mirai seems to be more of red herring than anything else. Sure it’s a real car that real people could drive but you can’t really go anywhere, since Hydrogen fueling station don’t exist outside specific areas of California, and they are apparently not always operational…
We know that electric cars are a viable alternative, we have the technology to drastically improve current generations of cars with hybrids systems, and yet car makers either idly do nothing or seemingly waste their time on hydrogen cars that almost no one could practically use. What is going on in the car industry? Well if you have been paying attention to the news recently, I think we can guess why.
In case you missed it, Volkswagen, the german car maker that own Porsche and Lamborghini, has been caught cheating and avoiding regulation on emissions from diesel engines. Basically, there was software inside the diesel cars’ computer that would turn on emission control for the vehicle only during emission testing. The rest of the time, during normal driving, it would release between 10 to 40 times as much pollution as it was allowed by law to improve fuel efficiency. People at Volkswagen intentionally put a system to fool environmental protection agency and their consumers for fuel efficiency. They could have designed an engine that worked and didn’t pollute as much, like other car makers did, but instead decided to fake the results and break the law for more than six years.
This is not the first time that a major car company was knowingly producing dangerous product. There was the GM debacle with the ignition switch that GM knew for almost a decade before the story blew, there was the Takata airbags that would send shrapnel in your face.
I think it pretty obvious that major car companies don’t have the drive to innovate like smaller startup like Tesla because they care more about short-term profit and selling units than making better products. Sure, a better product should sell better, but if they can make their product look better without actually changing it, why bother innovate it? While it would have been easy to dismiss the GM incident as a one off problem, this new revelation about Volkswagen clearly show that there is a pattern of negligence, or even malignancy, in car makers today.
I think the saddest part of the Volkswagen scandal is the thousands of people who own one of those diesel cars. I sincerely doubt that Volkswagen can actually fix the cars short of simply exchanging the fraudulent cars with brand new, non-fraudulent ones, and I doubt that would happen. That would make the affected car completely worthless with little to no resale value.
It will be interesting to see what will happen with this scandal, and we can only hope that this will serve as a lesson to the car industry that they can’t cheat forever.
On final side note, this reminds me of this documentary called Who killed the electric car? that talks about early electric cars in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and how car makers engineered their failures. It’s a good watch but it might make you sad because of how greed manipulates corporations.