Kinkajou : The car has really only a short history. Its predecessors were the chariot, the wagon and the coach. The car came into being only in the last 100 years.
Erasmus : Since Henry Ford engineered and mass produced the model T Ford, cars have been essential part of modern life. The advent of the car spelt the death knell for coaches and horses as a means of transportation. Cars do not require daily maintenance. Cars generate pollution, and are blamed for a variety of health and environmental problems.
Ford Model T first Mass Produced Car
However imagine a world where everyone owned a horse for transportation. Horses generate manure. Horses require feed and water, generating a substantial impact on land usage and environment through their footprint on the planet.
The internal combustion engine provides the motive power for vehicles. The basic design has changed little over the last hundred years, though there have been substantial innovations and technological improvements made, essentially invisible to the average user.
I remember as little as 30 years ago that cars required a new set of rings every 100,00 to 120,000 km. Improvements in alloys, precision in manufacturing, and improvements in lubrication have extended this lifespan up to 200,000 km mark. Vehicles last longer, work more reliably, and are more efficient than they have ever been.
Kinkajou : Public transport really has been the predominant choice for people throughout history. Either that or walk or take your horse.
Erasmus : Public transport will never replace the car completely. People need to move to many different places. Public transport relies on volume. If a large number of people wish to go to the same place, public transport can move them there.
However, in many cities if you wish to travel to the suburb next to yours and the suburb does not exist on the same radial (road), public transport may not help you. Often the only option is to travel to a transport hub by public transport, and then to travel outbound different radial.
If significant volumes of people do not exist to take advantage of public transport, the economic viability of the system is severely compromised. One common compromise for lower volume routes is to simply schedule public transport at long intervals. However, this creates an unsatisfactory service, pushing people to use private transport.
Erasmus :Cities create huge problems for private transport. I remember once during the day having to travel across a small regional city. There was no one on the roads. I seemed to be only one travelling anywhere. On considering this certain explanations present themselves.
In a small regional city, everything is close to everything else. So a driver would only spend a maximum of 5 to 8 minutes on the road in travelling. In a major city, facilities are more spread out and travel times are substantially greater.
This means that there appear to be fewer people on a road in a small provincial city simply because they get to where they need to go quickly. There are also more people in large cities, so the road system needs to handle higher volumes of people in cars travelling along the same radial (road) all trying to reach unique and varying destinations.
Brisbane Bypass Roads
All too often, people need to travel at the same time. For example, if work starts at 9 AM, most people would leave home at essentially the same time to reach work creating a glut of cars on the road at specific times.
The result: traffic jams. The roads are simply unable to handle the volume of traffic which a common schedule (the average working day) necessitates many people travelling at the same time. Delays occur, and town planners develop ever more complex solutions to keep traffic moving.
Once upon a time, when you would arrive at an you intersection if you wanted to turn left you would turn left, if you wanted to go straight ahead you went straight ahead, and if you wanted to turn right you would turn right.
However, to keep traffic flowing many intersections have needed to be optimised to carry over greater volumes of traffic. Intersections have flyovers and bypasses. Large volume arterial roads have been built carrying many lanes of traffic. Para- arterial roads exist. Travelling to a particular place no longer is intuitive. Sometimes straight ahead is not the way to go.
Travel demands that people know their route, or use travel aids such as GPS navigation systems to find a route to the destination. In many areas, such as central London cars are either banned or a toll is charged for access to particular areas of the city as a strategy to reduce traffic volumes on the road.
Upon reaching the destination, a car must be stored or parked. This creates economic disincentives for people using private transport (i.e. cars) to access specific regions of the city, such as the city centre.
The Humble Road
Kinkajou : The humble road has existed for thousands of years, to some extent unchanged especially since Roman times.
Erasmus : The road system itself has an unusual heritage. The Romans built roads and made these roads suitable for military use. This means they need to be wide enough to cope with horses, chariots and wagons. This requirement demands roads of a specific width. The logistics involved in creating roads suitable for transport 2000 years ago, still dictates many road building requirements today.
The history of roads also imposes constraints in many areas which at first glance do not appear to be related to road construction. For example, rockets designed for launching satellites can only be built to specific specifications or widths as they need to be transported from the construction site to the Launchpad.
If they are too wide to be transported along the road system, they simply cannot be moved. So our heritage from Romans of years ago still dictates the engineering of today.
Erasmus :In Roman times the world was an empty place. The human population was small. Many roads were simply tracks allowing the movement of people for small distances. In the last 30 years the human population has expanded from 3 billion to 7 billion people. Growth in the human population is still occurring. This creates evermore pressure on transportation systems and roads.
Public Transport Brisbane
Kinkajou : Most of our road networks really evolved rather than being planned, didn’t they?
Erasmus : A good point. Another major factor in the development of the road system is simply time. Cities have grown at sites of human habitation. Initially there are only a few houses clustered together in a specific area.
Then the population grows. A road system that caters for a small population is not suitable for larger towns. Because human population growth is slow, up till this century there has been very little long-term planning done to meet transportation needs even just a few decades distant.
The effect of this is that many city centres have narrow streets and a design that is not suited for the traffic that these roads are required to carry. It makes sense in small villages to make the roads narrow to reduce travel times.
Public Transport Roads Brisbane
Also up till this century, supplying cities with food, water and other human needs has used transport systems (e.g. horses) that are incapable of moving large volumes of supplies. The advent of the internal combustion engine and trucks has enabled movement of supplies to population centres in large volumes and over large distances.
For example in Australia, food produce commonly may be sourced from cities 3000 km away from their final destination. The semitrailer is essential to allow the movement of goods to support these populations. Vehicles also allow specialisation. Today some industries require large-scale markets. Access to these markets is only possible with fast transportation systems.
Technology of the Internal Combustion Engine
Kinkajou : Let’s talk about the technology of the internal combustion engine.
Erasmus : The internal combustion engine in old technology. It is essentially very inefficient, essentially converting approximately 15% of the fuel energy into mechanical or movement energy.
There have been many proposals for upgrades to the internal combustion engine. Metals were originally used to cast engine blocks for the internal combustion engine. However, with the explosion of technology in this century, new options are appearing. New engine designs, new alloys and the use of ceramic technology are forcing us to rethink the design and the internal combustion engine.
Car Engine ICE
In the internal combustion engine, fuel is burned explosively in a combustion chamber to drive a piston, to drive a key chain and hence to drive the wheels of the vehicle. One of the major by-products of this reaction is heat. Heat drives expansion of the gases within the combustion chamber.
However, it also represents a loss of potentially usable energy, hence reducing the efficiency of the engine. Much of this heat is transferred to the radiator and lost as a source of potential energy.
In a conventional engine each cylinder performs four strokes per cycle. These are intake (of fuel), compression, combustion and exhaust. This means that two revolutions of the crankshaft are required for each combustion.
Internal Combustion Engine
A split cycle engine uses two paired cylinders to provide these four strokes. One pair of cylinders generates intake and compression. The other pair of cylinders generates combustion and exhaust.
Compressed air is transferred from the compression cylinder to the power cylinder via a link between the cylinders, commonly called a crossover passage. Fuel is then injected into the combustion chamber and fired typically by spark plugs but in the case of diesel engines fired by compression. This produces the driving force for the cylinders.
Kinkajou : Surely there have been other design alternatives to the old internal combustion engine of Henry Ford’s day?
Erasmus : Yes. I’ll give some examples.
Other Solutions to the problem of the poor efficiency of the internal combustion engine have involved different engine designs.
- Rotary engines have been proposed. There is the case in Australia of a company which was floated on the stock market to develop a rotary engine. Large amounts of capital were accumulated.
A small number of people proposing the new design did very well financially. However no engines reached commercial production. Technological factors were significant in commercialising these engines. It proved difficult to create ring seals for the engine and they wore out rapidly.
There was also substantial wear on the engine block. The Technology of the day was not able to cope with the physical demands of the combustion environment generated within the engine.
- Another concept is the 5 stroke engine. In this engine to high-pressure cylinders operating on a conventional four stroke cycle alternately exhaust to a central low-pressure expansion cylinder.
By using this design burnt gases are able to be utilised to perform further work and to improve the thermal efficiency of the engine. By improving efficiency, engine size can be decreased. By reducing the weight of the vehicle, less work needs to be done to move the vehicle, again decreasing the size and weight of the vehicle and the engine.
- Another engine design involves two opposed cylinders driving a crankshaft alternately.
- Yet another engine design utilises water within the engine block to provide further expansion force and to improve the efficiency of the engine.
ICE Internal Combustion Engine
Fuel Technology in the Car
Kinkajou : Isn’t fuel technology also important in engines?
Erasmus : Much time and effort has been used in exploring the usage of alternative fuels. Energy source include compressed air, electric batteries, solar voltaic power, dimethyl ether fuel, ammonia fuel, biofuels such as by alcohol and bioethanol, biodiesel, natural gas, hydrogen, liquid nitrogen, and even steam or wood gas.
A word of warning to biodiesel lovers. This fuel need to be carefully made to have very specific levels of esterification of the oils involved, otherwise the engine is damaged. FTIR assays or chromatograph assays are required. It is not an easy backyard job. You should always very carefully follow a formula. Your car engine is at stake.
Petrol Station Brisbane
Kinkajou : I believe the technological development of the internal combustion engine over the last hundred years has been substantial. However the problems generated by vehicles on the road relate to many other issues besides engine efficiency and type of fuel used to provide the motive force.
Erasmus: You said it! It’s not the technology or lack thereof which is at the heart of the problem.
I think the most important problem facing the private car in this era is simply that it is too large for the road system and for the population it must support. This is especially obvious in Southeast Asia. Many roads in Southeast Asia are at the limit of the carrying capacity.
Cars just don’t fit. They are too big. They are dangerous to bikes and pedestrian users. The roads are too small and the carry too much traffic. There needs to be a solution to these problems as human population on this planet grows.
The size of the car as we have mentioned has been largely dictated by the needs of road transport arising thousands of years ago in the Roman era. Many these constraints are becoming irrelevant in the world today.
Redesigning the Car
Erasmus :The most obvious solution is to reduce the width of the average car. If cars are narrower, two cars may travel in the same line of traffic side-by-side. This effectively doubles the carrying capacity of most roads.
Such a solution is appropriate because in the western world many drivers travelling to work are often the only person in the car. Approximate 80% of traffic has only the driver as the occupant. This just does not make sense.
Reducing the length of the car, doesn't work the same way.
Reducing the width of the average car would also double the amount of available parking. Because cars are narrower, roads can recoup part of the road shoulder to be available for the carriage of traffic. This may result in an average two lane road essentially becoming a five lane road.
Currently the main solutions for heavier road usage, simply involve smaller cars. However, each car still occupies a lane of traffic. Each car occupies a space buffer in front of and behind it.
So the capacity of the road to handle traffic remains essentially constant. Smaller cars can fit into tighter parking spaces, but no extra parking space is generated at each car continues to occupy the unit of space. Standards dictate that each parking space must be capable of holding a range of vehicle sizes.
Erasmus : A Number of other issues become obvious. Is it really essential that a single person travelling to work requires up to 1500 kg of vehicle to transport them to and from work?
Yes modern cars are comfortable, but smaller cars can be made comfortable to. Yes modern cars are flexible and reliable, but smaller cars can be made flexible and reliable as well. Yes modern cars give their drivers freedom to alter the route and control of the route optimising travel, but smaller cars can achieve the same purpose.
Erasmus : Smaller vehicles would achieve greater fuel efficiency. The high-level engineering typical in the modern car is essentially inappropriate to city use. It is rare for people driving to work to drive in excess of 60 km/h. Average speeds probably approach 30 or 40 km/h.
Many cities have adopted speed limits of 50 km/h in suburban streets. Many central city areas have adopted speed limits of 40 km/h. A vehicle capable of speeds of 120 km/h is simply unnecessary in the lives of many people.
Motorbikes are dangerous. Too dangerous to allow anyone seriously to plan for everyone using them for transport. Witness the substantial injuries arising from their usage. I have seen some horrific accidents in my time. Car drivers are far more likely to walk away from these accidents than bike riders.
Many accidents are not the fault of the bike rider, but are due to the impromptu actions of car drivers around them. In a bike you may have nowhere to go except to your doom. People do like bikes. In south-east Asian countries, they are used frequently. The economic imperative certainly drives the usage, as the accumulation of sufficient funds to purchase a motorbike is within the means of many people.
In many SE Asian countries the purchase of a car may well be beyond the economic capacity of many people.
Erasmus : The modern car is here to stay. But perhaps we need to rethink just what defines a modern car. Car manufacturers have clung to the same model for over 100 years. Cars are introduced and become bigger with each successive generation. I would say it is not up to car manufacturers to dictate what is necessary.
This is an issue for society. As cities grow in the population expands across the planet, what has served us in the past may well not service in the future. We need to rethink our strategies for coping with traffic.
Electronic Payment Card for Public Transport
The Future of the Modern Motor Vehicle
Kinkajou : So what you see in the future?
Erasmus : I think we have a substantial handle on the technology involved in the production of engines. There are substantial gains to be had improving the efficiency of engines. There needs to be considerable work done in improving pollution aspects of exhaust gases. Hydrocarbon pollutants have been substantially implicated in the rise of asthma and lung conditions.
They are substantially more irritant to immune systems and lungs than simple smoke arising from burning wood.
I think the biggest issue with introducing a new type of vehicle onto the road systems of the world are not technological.
The Issues are more social. I think technology is easy. Many people working in many places having many different thoughts and generating many solutions, I am sure will triumph over technological constraints. However, generating the social imperative to make changes in our world is something that creates a lot of resistance. People know how things are and do not want to change.
Hatch Back Car
Erasmus : It may well take a crisis to drive change. A doubling of the price of fuel or a doubling of the population could well be the driver of change. Improved techniques for drilling in the development of techniques for extracting oil from shale have revolutionised the production of liquid fuels.
The United States is approaching oil self-sufficiency for the first time in decades through the use of shale oil extraction. This means the imperative to develop new fuels, (much more costly than simply extracting fuels out of the earth), will probably delayed by 50 to 60 years. Social changes the most difficult of all and enticing people to a new way of doing things is very difficult indeed.
Kinkajou : Let’s look at the issue of “Personal Transport” reforms
Erasmus : Design is a give and take process. A series of compromises that attune a concept to its environment or purpose. The car is a concept that has spread around the world. However the world has changed, and the concept has fallen far behind the reality of the new world.
The world is now a crowded place.
Fuel is costly.
Roads have become crowded so the higher speeds, for which cars are designed, are impossible for most people to attain in their daily travels. If you head outside the US and Australia, you begin to realise how truly crowded the world is.
Kinkajou : Let’s look at the car industry. Cars are pretty much the same the world around. The most basic observation is that they are overengineered for the environments in which they work.
They are too big, too heavy, too fast and too bulky. In many city areas, few people travel on average much above 50kph, (35mph). Why use a vehicle capable of travelling 140 kph to do this task? This type of speed is illegal on most roads in the western World.
The average person going to work probably does not need a vehicle weighing in at 1000-2000kg to facilitate the transport of one person (60-115 kg) and a carry bag of possessions to work (2-10kg, even with the umbrella). So consider again.
The average person in a city going to work only need to transport about 100 kg; themselves and their personal belongings.
Erasmus : The current ludicrous situation of personal transportation over engineering will probably only cease when the price of fuel goes up by a factor of about ten. Then the average vehicle would need to be about ten times lighter and ten times more fuel efficient to be a practicable alternative for personal transportation.
The fuel companies and the motor vehicle industry have a lot to answer for.
These stick in the mud idiots have only considered deigning bigger and bigger vehicles, even when it was becoming obvious that while people liked driving them, they really did not like paying to fuel the gas guzzlers.
In Australia, though given millions in incentives to redesign their vehicles, they sat there for an extra couple of decades, designing nothing.
I can only say that they have got what they deserve. Their failure to innovate means that their vehicles have become a commodity and that the main arena for competition is price. The consequences of competing for sales in a price driven market in a high labour cost country are very predictable. Tough!
So what should car Look like and why?
Kinkajou : So what should car Look like and why?
Erasmus : For safety’s sake, four wheels are essential. Two wheelers deliver a swathe of injuries as people lose their balance or suffer accidents. They are very unforgiving of driver misjudgement.
A Four wheeled bicycle sized vehicle with a small motor would serve transportation requirements for most people just as well as a small vehicle, would be largely as safe as a small motor vehicle especially at lower speeds and would be quite adequate to meet transportation needs for most people in a city area who simply require to go to work and home again. Possible minimum weight: 60kg, and that’s probably with lots of extra features and trimmings.
There are a couple of other important system issues. If the vehicles could be made half as wide as a normal car, the number of lanes available for traffic would double, substantially increasing the traffic carrying capacity of roads. Parking capacities would double. Fuel consumption would collapse, with better long term consequences for greening our planet and conserving valuable fossil fuels.
A review of the private transportation system is essential. The design and performance characteristics of the vehicles are what need to be reviewed and balanced against the capacity of a city or society to provide the infrastructure demanded by the vehicles. In SE Asia, as I have stated, on many roads, cars just don’t fit. Too many People and too little space.
Brisbane City Rail Map
Kinkajou : Any Comments Goo?
Goo : Again we find that the social issues for change are more significant than the technological ones.
It is obvious that new engine styles and new fuels need to be considered. Improved efficiency and “green” fuels are ever more necessary in a crowded world.
But we need to bite the bullet in terms of how we use our roads. Halving the width of a vehicle and reducing engine performance / weight will let us double traffic volumes on the average road and substantially reduce vehicle weights. The world is going to get even more crowded. Erasmus was born in an era of 3.5 billion people. Now there are 7 billion people. By 2050, we predict that there will be 9 billion people.
Future Car TV show UFO
If we fail to plan for this type of future, our world will end in gridlock. Gridlock is one step I think towards the end of city civilisation.