The flood of new technologies and the rapid progress of electric cars, bikes and transport vehicles will soon see the end of mechanical transport in the next decade. Just as our great grandparents mourned the passing of horse transport a century ago millions will deeply miss the passing of this wonderful age of the mechanical marvels that grace our roads today.
In the new age about to come, petrol pumps will be replaced by electric charging stations. An electric car needs about 20 per cent the energy of a comparable diesel or petrol car to cover a comparable distance so the latter vehicles are definitely doomed.
We will miss the deep ‘dhug, dhug, dhug’ exhaust note of big bikes like the Royal Enfield or Harley Davidson. We will miss the shriek of Formula One racing cars and the thunder of vehicular traffic. With more electronic surveillance the roads will become much safer and more efficient but driving is also set to become very boring. Your vehicle will quietly and proficiently take you to your destination but you will not be able to show off your driving skill with slick gear changes on twisty roads when there are no gears to change.
There will also be much fewer traffic cops because an eye in the sky linked to a chip in every car will spot every speeding vehicle, every traffic offence, every car that is wrongly parked and every vehicle that is stolen.
A link to an owners designated debit card will silently debit a fine to the offending driver’s bank. This technology is already here and only needs to be implemented. It will make all traffic tame and obedient and quickly reduce death and injuries on the roads. These developments will also make insurance rates plunge.
As with China where almost all two-wheelers are now electric bikes will be the first to change as is already beginning to happen in India. Personal cars will follow them following the steady drop in the cost of the expensive Lithium-ion battery packs and the length of their driving distances. Long-distance trucks and busses will not waste time charging batteries but will go to swapping stations where their battery packs are exchanged in a few minutes.
The pollution and noise will diminish but it will also spell the end of the millions of mechanics who are now needed to keep all the mechanical vehicles running. Modern cars have become much more reliable but engines and gearboxes have thousands of parts like pistons, rings, clutch plates, gears and gaskets that can fail while an electric vehicle may just need the replacement of a powerful but very small motor... a job that may need just a few minutes.
Petrol pumps will be rapidly replaced by electric charging stations but they will be quite a few because a large number of charging poles will spring up at almost every parking lot to say nothing of charge points in the basements of malls, big residential and office blocks and at some personal homes.
Homeowners will erect rooftop solar panels and sell their surplus energy to the grid. The imports of fossil fuels will quickly diminish and that will usher in the decline of the oil-rich OPEC countries that will quickly move from filthy rich to abjectly poor.
So poor, in fact, they will not be able to afford to finance global terrorists. It will be a new world but not a brave new world. The best and worst of the wonderful mechanical vehicles on our roads today will then be found only in museums.
(The writer is a senior automobile analyst)