Dear Editor, in a few days almost all the newspapers will announce the Geneva Motor Show and talk to us about the car-ecology relationship to convince us that there is no other automotive future that is not electric or hybrid propulsion. If they are not denied by true and proven arguments they will succeed in their real intent, which is always and only to make propaganda to those who pay them, masking from information targeted words and aimed at a specific purpose, in the best tradition of paid journalism and payroll of the powerful.
Knowing very well the things that will not be said, I feel the duty to provide a complete technical analysis, thus bringing out the uncomfortable truths of which this "technological funnel" in which they are taking us: very high risks for the safety of the "Road population" to which we all belong, even by pedestrians.
In the nautical sector, electric propulsion has long been consolidated. The most obvious case is that of submarines, which for their navigation needs, can not do without a propulsive architecture Electro-Diesel: Diesel for surfacing navigation (with simultaneous generation of electric current for recharging powerful batteries of accumulators) and power for diving navigation. Not even technology submarines "Air independent" they are an exception. Many boats then inherited the same power train from submarines.
In the aeronautical field, various architectures are being hypothesised, but the real possibilities of application are less, because as you can see from the illustrated diagrams, they always require heavy batteries.
For commercial airplanes where payload is the raison d'être, we can not accept to sacrifice this for having to transport the batteries and all the electronics connected to them. Therefore, traditional motor technology will be perfected (in particular for construction methods and materials) and the chemistry will be used to produce adequate fuels, including vegetable fuels, for example using marine algae.
For remotely piloted aircraft intended for short missions, electric motors can instead be really used, because these aircraft do not have to carry high payload (only instruments and weapons) and at the same time require silent propulsion and low infrared tracking. In any case, if a drone crashes the damage caused by the presence of batteries are "included" in the damage caused by the fall impact.
However, architecture could evolve in the automotive sector from the aeronautics sector "Turboelectric". The possible evolution could easily be accomplished with a small methane turbine designed to operate only an electric generator. This is in fact the only truly acceptable solution for a global deployment of truly safe electric cars.
When this happens, it will be possible to conclude that it was enough to develop the ideas already proposed at the beginning of the 90 years from Renault and Volvo at the prototype level and save incredible capital used in research based on an assumption (the use of high voltage batteries) wrong. But in the meantime they will have adequately lost our memory of this.
And so we came to the heart of the matter: what makes it so dangerous hybrid and electric vehicles that circulate on our roads is their high voltage battery (IF DAMAGED IN THE INCIDENT).
Two premises, then:
the first (just made), is that the accident must have compromised the integrity of the high-end battery casing, but accidents of this type are still many every day, every day. Otherwise it must be honestly said that there are no other problems that are not the high cost of the batteries, their duration and disposal and the environmental impact for their construction;
to define "High Voltage" this type of batteries is not correct from an exquisitely electrotechnical point of view, so they are called in the automotive field because they exceed abundantly the 60 V DC, survival limit for those who were exposed.
We are talking about batteries that can accumulate voltages of about 400 Volt DC and supply currents up to 125 Ampère. You all know what happens if you put two fingers in the socket of your home, from which come out 220V (AC) and at most 16 Ampère!
High voltage batteries for automotive use are then made with materials (Lithium) that can ignite on contact with water. Let's then make an effort of imagination and answer these two simple questions:
what risks would you expose to help the driver of an electric vehicle centered by a tram?
what would be the risk of those who find themselves putting off the fire of a petrol car involved in a serious accident with an electric car?
If you answered ...
You should immediately recognize the electric car and prevent anyone from approaching and using only CO fire extinguishers2 or dust. Then delimit the area, make sure of the electrical risk and eventually cancel it in the most technically suitable way for that specific vehicle (as long as the environmental and weather conditions allow it)! Do you think it's easy?
Who then runs the danger of electrocution?
Is simple: the first rescuers! (the occupants of the damaged vehicle are considered - I do not want - "expendable")
There are no smells or dripping of liquid that can put in alarm, or other clue to realize if there are cables fed interrupted and uncovered, such as to generate a voltaic arc or an electrocution...
But if the high voltage battery casing broke, its internal modules could be in short circuit with the bodywork and so KILL who comes in contact with the bodywork.
Of these dangers car manufacturers are well aware, but how do they try to remedy it?
First, they design the cars to the best of their ability, and develop automatic activation logics to eliminate the supply of current from the battery. These are huge design efforts, but no designer in the world can ever predict how a battery could actually be damaged in the event of an accident, because there is no such thing as an accident and because cars are not armored cars!
All manufacturers are then heading towards "autonomous driving" because it is the only way to avoid traffic accidents. The intent, however, is thwarted by the presence of a circulating vehicle park of too heterogeneous technological level. On our roads will always continue to turn cars that do not know how to overcome the review ... nothing but being able to do the "autonomous driving"!
The Fire Brigade knows where to cut the cables that carry the high voltage, but their intervention does nothing more than eliminate the supply of electricity coming out of the battery according to the normal project path. Their intervention does not isolate the internal components of the battery having a voltage higher than 60 V, and in the accident the electric current could have found a way out different from that on which the Fire Brigade act with their competent and equipped intervention.
In the battery there are certainly fuses that interrupt the series connection of its internal cells, but these interrupt only the connection between modules, not to prevent the single module, individually, can constitute a instant lethal danger.
The manufacturers of hybrid or electric cars form some technicians, and the training program is entrusted to the good heart of their organization. There are car companies that make serious courses and others do not.
But even in the most enlightened cases, these trained technicians represent only a small part compared to those in force at their dealerships official. And without wanting to touch the subject of how much they have in terms of adequate equipment in their daily work (operational and extra-scholastic), I limit myself to saying that they are responsible for the ungrateful task of the fireman in front of the bomb.
Have the European or Italian institutional bodies produced adequate safety regulations? No! there is no specific regulation for the automotive sector and it is limited to generic requirements borrowed from other operational areas. Ask the Minister of Transport or the Transport Commission which legal information regulates the matter.
In the best case they will reply that the protocol of the Italian Electrotechnical Committee, which arises from the electrical risks of buildings and other infrastructures operating in high voltage (the "real" one, from 30000 V), but they have not yet produced anything specific about the risks of cars being sold and circulating on our roads !
Intervention in a fire at a railway electric panel by 10000V is in fact less risky to rescue a motorist rolled down from an escarpment with his electric car from 400V, because in the first case it is possible to cut the supply of current "upstream", at the cost of isolating an entire neighborhood, in the second no and we must intervene immediately!
In Germany, where every vaunted firmness serves only to hide their reeling in utter uncertainty, every single intervention "On the field" by the "specialist" appointed by the vehicle manufacturer must be previously authorized by the employer. This is already a download on the "specialist" any responsibility, but at least shows that he has sensed the delicacy of the matter.
Here in Italy the employer of the "specialist" gives a single authorization "for life"! There is no periodic training, no additional medical examination in addition to the first (which is not compulsory) for the achievement of the qualification. If today's qualification as a "specialist", tomorrow he loses his psychophysical requirements or training to the execution of the verification procedures of the accident scene, worse for him. He is "specialist" and as such he must intervene.
Needless to mention that the "serious" incident can happen anywhere, not just in front of the gate of an official dealer of the manufacturer of the damaged vehicle, with the "specialist" ready to intervene fully equipped!
To those who object that to provide assistance to a heavily damaged car or gasoline car, it also takes great risks, I reply that from burned or mutilated you survive, while from lightning you die and immediately, without having been previously put in alarm from odors or liquids, as it happens for cars with combustion engines!
Surely the problem of pollution is there, but the right way to solve it is not that of cars equipped with high-voltage batteries. With the spread of these cars there will be more and more dead dazzling dead. I expect that some day a car manufacturer owner of different technologies will bring to light the topic (and perhaps even documents of electrocution occurred) to eliminate some competitors uncomfortable commercial.
We can certainly develop alternative technologies, such as those chemical, to obtain fuels and fuels (the two words are not synonymous) alternative to the current ones to be used on motor vehicles with absolutely conventional.
Meanwhile, methane offers significantly lower ecological and hazardous scenarios. But methane cars have not been included in the eco-incentive plan for the replacement of non-green cars, while the electric and hybrid cars have been included.
It will be a coincidence, but from a consultation of the price list of cars on the market today in Italy available on any automotive magazine, it can be noted that "Dieselgate" he was a victim, today he produces more CNG cars than high voltage electric / hybrid cars. That does not want to run the risk of ending up one day even in one "Elettrogate"?
Note that I talked about methane and not LPG, and especially about engines born at the factory with this power supply.
Beyond the practically nil polluting emissions and the possibility of storing the vehicle in a closed environment, methane can be produced by the decomposition of organic matter (garbage, food residues, etc ...) and not only by oil refining or by crushing of shale oil shale ("shale gas"), which in both cases would be yet another violence to this poor planet already infinitely raped.
Please observe the path of propulsive renewal undertaken for cargo ships and TIRs: thanks to methane they even completely do without the propulsive electric part.
Two examples for all: Wartsila and IVECO. For those who do not know them, Wartsila is the world leader in the construction of large naval engines (a container carrier on 3 mounts their engines).
IVECO is certainly better known, and as it produces vehicles that travel on the same roads that can be traveled by the same cars I've talked about to you, in Turin it produces methane (LNG, CNG and mixed) TIR. They transport loads from 20 tons for over 1500 km and compared to equivalent Diesel engines reduce the pollution of 90% for NO2 (what makes the difference between a Euro 5 and a Euro 6) and 99% on particulate matter (the infamous "fine powders"), without having to use technical solutions aimed at exhaust gas reclamation that increase maintenance costs .
Does it seem to you that the owner of a fleet of container ships or the owner of a trucking company with TIR for total 1.500.000 km / year in a vehicle can marry technologies that are not very experienced?
Or do you think that the scenario of autonomously driven electric cars will be a certain future for the entire global car fleet?
We want to talk about what can be the number of vehicles to be made environmentally friendly in the countries of the "BRIC" group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, where there are major car manufacturers or where for decades vegetable fuels have been used on mechanics absolutely conventional), compared to the small industrialized world on which all our myopia is concentrated?
The future of the electric motor-drive unit is not the electric one, regardless of brainwashing that make us. Manufacturers of undoubted technological prestige developed and tried to market cars powered by natural gas already in the years'80: there was no lack of technology, buyers were missing (or rather a marketing of the same level of the current one that pushes us into the funnel of the electric propulsion)!
The distribution network of liquefied methane (LNG) that only a few years ago had only two distributors, moreover placed in a non-homogeneous way (in Piacenza and Novi Ligure), today has a skeptical spread throughout the territory.
The infrastructures necessary to support an electrified global car park have not yet reached a homogeneous diffusion on the national territory and with enormous delay are now beginning to be visible in the larger cities. And I talk about public infrastructures.
For private ones, such as the garage of a common home, be aware that the current charging time for a high voltage battery recharged from the domestic electricity grid is about 8 hours at 2300 Watt, provided you do not even have a refrigerator, air conditioner and washing machine, otherwise your domestic counter from 3 KW "skips" and you will not recharge anything!
This is however the minor problem, because domestic electrical outlets are usually limited to a maximum load of 1500 Watt. At 2300W for 8 consecutive hours the risk of fire in the garage tends to become a certainty ...
Obviously the problem can be solved, it is enough to have a dispensing column connected to a dedicated counter, also of a professional type. How much? Get a quote, along with the electric car that you will buy with the eco-incentives from which the CNG cars have been excluded and see if it suits you ...
Hoping to have done something useful, I would like to summarize all this long letter in 3 words: do not be fooled!
With the best compliments for your magazine, thanks for the consideration and data space, but also the request to protect my privacy by omitting references to my identity, since (as you may have guessed) I am an industry professional .. .