Cordless Cars - Blackbourn

By: Rob Blackbourn

Apparently electromagnetic interactions are no match for mechanical reciprocations in Rob’s scheme of things

Cordless Cars - Blackbourn
Tesla power in Lotus Elise clothin

A few years back I asked Morley about an upmarket-looking car I had spotted earlier, near the MONA gallery in Tasmania. From a distance, I couldn’t identify it. When I mentioned its one distinguishing feature was a large stylized capital ‘T’ badge Morley explained quick as a flash that it was a Tesla. He followed with a rundown on the impressive responses top-shelf EVs produce when you floor the go-pedal. "Okay Dave, I get that, but surely they’re not proper cars…"

The initial support that my EV-reluctance received from some of my classic car and motorcycle mates has been slowly eroding as various individuals have become hybrid or EV owners over time. Most recently an $80K-plus worth of EV Volvo turned up in one bloke’s garage. Come on! – that budget could have brought home a mint 3.8 Mark II Jaguar plus an excellent Meyers Manx fun-buggy.

 Let’s hear from the trumpet section.

It’s not that I’m insensitive to climate change, that important driver of the EV-push. On the contrary I get it, and we’ve gone solar at home and are moving to go all electric. We also burn less fossil fuel all-round now, walking a lot more and often substituting trains for cars for domestic travel as well as for surface travel if overseas. And certainly no Amazon rainforest needs to be cleared for cattle to support our modest consumption of red meat.

Then there’s recycling, which is almost my middle name in terms of DIY building and vehicle projects. There’s enough timber, steel tubing, angle and RHS stored under the house, to keep me productive for years. And I’ve got a shed full of automotive stuff ready for projects or to keep our little fleet operational. An oddball example is a dusty but unused L300 Express muffler and tailpipe assembly, unexpectedly supplied as a gift a while back by a bloke I hadn’t seen for years. He turned up one night just as we were getting ready for bed. I thanked him and gave him $50 and a six-pack for his trouble before ushering him to the door (all this despite the old Mitsubishi van being long gone, replaced by the trusty HiLux some years earlier). Still, it’s bound to ‘come in handy’ one day … 

So it’s not climate-change scepticism that feeds my ongoing fondness for internal-combustion engines. It’s a lot about my familiarity with things with pistons as well as their sensual feedback and sometimes whimsical behaviours, compared with seriously soulless electric drivetrains. While there’s no denying the impressive performance that powerful EVs can deliver, I’ve got to say that I’ve been privileged over the years to have enjoyed some serious g-force hits from various petrol-burning road rockets.

From 1966 GM’s Electrovair II prototype.

To me, the much-praised smoothness and quietness of EV motors is a bit overrated. Show me an EV motor that could pleasure me with sensations like the glorious induction howl from a set of Webers, or the gut-pleasing exhaust-note rhythms from the staggered 90°/270° firing intervals of a healthy V8. Or an XY GT Falcon’s ‘shaker’ hood-scoop heeling over before your eyes as you launch hard, giving the engine mounts a hard time. Then there’s the feedback from an engine you’ve just rebuilt when you fire it up – little things like the smell of paint and gasket goo cooking and a couple of pots taking a moment to chime in while their lifters pump up. 

Interestingly, a June 3, 2023 Guardian article by early-adopter of EVs, Rowan (Mr Bean) Atkinson reveals his second thoughts. The actor/comedian/ electrical engineer says: "Sadly, keeping your old petrol car may be better than buying an EV." Among other comments he points to figures from Volvo claiming greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacture of EVs are almost 70 per cent higher than for petrol cars, due largely to their lithium-ion batteries. While he sees promise in future, developments including solid-state batteries plus hydrogen and synthetic ‘petrol’ as automotive fuels, he believes today’s EVs are not the answer.

Finally, a challenge to the contemporary use of ‘hybrid’ in the EV setting – in my world the hybrid label would be restricted to really outstanding cross-pollinated machines like say, the amazing steam-powered XL Falcon of the late Ted Pritchard, or the stunning Rolls-Royce Merlin-powered 1955 Chevy, created by Central Victoria’s genius hot rod builder, Rod Hadfield. Now those are proper hybrids.

Just saying …

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