How can our fleet of vehicles be converted to green energy quickly? It's not enough to specify the end-point. What is the process?
Internal combustion engines that run on a fossil fuel have to be replaced, in most cases, by electric motors and batteries to power them. However, does the whole vehicle need to be scrapped? If so, the process of replacing the entire fleet might take at least a decade.
Can our technological ingenuity create conversion kits, allowing the whole car to be kept except its gasoline engine, which would be replaced by an electric motor and large batteries? Outside the car would look exactly the same, and the cabin inside would also be unchanged except for the addition of some gauges showing the condition of the energy storage system. The wheels and brakes would also be the same, as would the transmission and steering.
Part of the resistance to a green energy transition is the huge investment in private vehicles, as close as a hundred of million garages. Imagine that drivers were told they could keep their cars, except for a switching out of the engines. Valuable private property could be kept, especially if the car or other vehicle was not o old that it would ordinarily soon be scrapped.
Since the cost of replacing the engine would be far less than getting a new vehicle, and would require only a short time at the shop, it would be much m ore practical to manufacture what was necessary and to offer attractive subsidies for the transition. Perhaps the only outer sign would be a proud insignia on the back plus an inconspicuous charging plug. Thus, the conversion of the fleet would be fast and relatively inexpensive.
Internal combustion engines could be sold on the scrap metal market and in the form of re-formed steel, perhaps be used, to some extent, to make new vehicles.
The conversion program would not prevent buyers in the market for new vehicles from getting electric cars or trucks, in which case there would be no emission of dangerous gases. New electric vehicles could present a range of comfort, performance, and economy (miles per kilowatt-hours).
Conversion would work most appropriately on cars that were relatively light, and whose drivers wanted good mileage rather than super-fast pickup.
Kits could be designed both by makers of many vehicles and also by independent companies, and would be installed mainly by professionals, probably by the shop where an owner was accustomed by having his vehicle maintained or fixed.
Clearly, a program of rapid conversion to electric vehicles would depend on an infrastructure of charging stations, which could be a new facility at the familiar filling station, or at work, or at home, or at strategically located stations for long-distance drivers. To the extent that battery packs were standardized to one of a few models, a driver could simply switch batteries, exchanging one that was low for one already charged, and paying for the service as we now pay for gasoline.
The design of electric motors is well understood. The main challenges would be to install the brackets to hold it is position to link to the existing transmission, to hold the battery packs, and to design batteries for easy replacement and quick charging.
To the driver, the car would not seem very different, except it would be quieter and electric motors, as drivers of hybrids know, can have fast pick-up from a stop.
Instead of holding on to their investment in fossil fuel driven vehicles, a program of subsidized engine replacements and even basic infrastructure would make it "cool" to go electric.
As my brother correctly points out, electric cars would not diminish global warming except to the extent that the electricity with which they were charged came not from generating plants powered, as now, almost entirely by fossil fuels ()coal, natural gas). The electric power must itself be green, and that will be the subject of another article. In the meantime, any source of electricity will at least enable people to make the transition to green power in their cars.