Should car makers go back to basics?
Remember the early model Skoda, with no water pump, and no fuel pump? OK, it was a pretty ordinary car and the finish was poor. In truth it may be the most boring car ever made.
The idea of keeping it simple was a good one though. It could be sold and used in countries where the automotive dealers only have two screwdrivers, a hammer and a shifting spanner. You could repair a Skoda with very little in the way of tools and equipment, most things were easy to get at for repairs and parts costs were minimal.
Old cars used to run things like windscreen wipers and power brakes off the vacuum from the motor. Most new cars still use this system for power brake assistance.
Why not use all the vacuum power you can get from the motor that would be wasted otherwise?
With the improvements in technology surely we could make these simple components even better yet much cheaper than before. Cadillac and othe luxury cars have used vacuum for many functions. We should be able to do so again, only cheaper and better.
We do not need unusable performance, or the complexity involved in obtaining it..
Apart from being capable of exceeding the speed limit by double what we can drive at legally, cars have gone backwards in some ways.
- No longer can you rebuild a motor economically. By time you remove all the plastic it's lunch time!
- Same for the transmission. Too complex by far, in fact not designed to be repaired at all in many cases.
- If the computer dies, it is a tow away situation. Your exotic car may have to be towed many miles because of a part worth 30 cents when they should have used a 50 cent one.
- All the electronics adds to complexity and potential total failure of functions such as windows opening, locking the car etc.
- Environmentally new cars consume a lot more materials.
- Newer cars clean their exhaust pollution in a catalytic converter. Where emissions testing is not an annual requirement, what often happens is the mechanic sticks a screwdriver through it when it clogs up so the motor will continue to run, but from then on the motor will also dump badly on the environment.
- Anti pollution devices are only valid if the catalytic converter is changed at the correct intervals. (rarely happens, as they are so expensive to replace.)
- Anti pollution is only completed if the converter is disposed of properly when it is changed. (again, very expensive to dispose of, and in the real world, seldom happens.)
This car is made of recycled water bottles.
I wonder what would happen if a manufacturer decided to use new technology in a different way entirely.
Example of this would be to:
- Make the body out of recycled water bottles. (It has been done already by Hyundai/ QarmaQ experimentally.)
- Make seats, dashboard, door linings, mats and carpets from plant fibre. (See my Honda Clarity hub.) The Honda Clarity interior is made from plant fiber, and it is beautiful, comfortable and long lasting.)
- Simplify suspension. A simple torsion arm or sealed hydraulic suspension units are a couple of ways to go. ( I was once involved in the development of such a new suspension system that is so simple it would remove most of the unsprung weight.)
- Make the roof and door skins operate as solar panels, and use four alternators, one on each wheel to use as brakes to produce more electricity.
- Keep the transmission down to a simple spring loaded variable speed belt and pulley system. (used since 1950's in DKW and others.) The DKW worked perfectly. It was adjustable with 3 bolts in the spring loaded pulley, always keeping the motor at or near peak torque. Honda use a computer controlled variation on this Idea in the "Jazz."
- Use computers by all means, but leave manual systems in place as well.
- Duplicate electrical components that are vital, with Auto switching between units and replacement warning for the expired component. The idea is that when an important component such as a motherboard, relay or engine ignition component fails, it switches to a duplicate component, then triggers a warning light to inform you that you need to replace the failed component.
By going back to basics in car design and production, surely it is now possible to make a very well made cheap car that is very very reliable and available to all countries that require individual transportation such as small cheap cars and food transport vehicles.
The current low priced small car offerings are too complex, too expensive to buy and maintain.
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