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Something we are going to lose

2 May 2022

As we increasingly move from internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles to electric ones, it might be time to reflect on the unintended consequences of this shift.

The obvious effects of this transition are all pretty positive.

Lower carbon emissions, reduced total cost of ownership, reduced reliance on fossil fuels and lubricants and reduced particulates in our air -- along with a great many other benefits.

However, there's one thing that people seem to have overlooked, at least as far as I can tell.

It's not something that affects our environment, it's something that will affect our society and passions.

Right now there are huge numbers of people who really enjoy repairing and modifying their cars.

Around the country and around the world there are legions of individuals and groups who spend countless hours tinkering, tweaking, enhancing and sometimes completely redesigning their vehicles.

Tired old engines are stripped and rebuilt, ports are polished, heads are planed, factory exhaust systems are replaced with more efficient after-market units and the list goes on.

There are still some folk who do their own oil changes, replace filters and plugs or even undertake full-blown mechanical repairs, not so much because the have to but because they enjoy such things.

As young lad in my mid to late teens, I spent endless hours working on my own cars. Sometimes just to keep them on the road but on other occasions it was to try and eek a little more performance out of their tired old internals.

Will this still happen once the ICE has vanished from our vehicles?

I think not.

The EV is a rather different beast.

For a start, most EVs have more performance, in terms of acceleration or speed, than most people could wish for.

More importantly however, EVs tend to be so simple (at least in concept) that there's not a lot you can do to improve that performance without spending a huge chunk of change.

Then there's the issue of safety.

Get things wrong with an ICE and chances are it simply won't start or it'll run poorly, overheat and stop.

Get things wrong with an EV however, and you've got a fantastic fire-starter or maybe a great way to electrocute yourself.

The battery packs in most modern EVs operate at voltages that would almost certainly be fatal if you happened to get yourself across the terminals -- even if only for an instant. This fact alone will likely deter most sensible people from meddling with the innards of their car without the special tools and knowledge needed to do so safely.

Another factor is the whole "right to repair" issue that is currently under discussion around the world.

Increasingly, manufacturers are telling customers that they can't repair the products they've bought, nor can third-party companies. They prevent such repairs by refusing to sell parts or the information needed to safely and effectively carry out repairs. The justification is often that "it's not safe" for anyone other than a factory-authorised technician to lift the covers. Some modern EVs don't even have a bonnet that the user can open -- it's restricted to authorised technicians, perhaps due to liability concerns, should someone fry themselves by accident.

So what is going to become of today's motoring enthusiast who likes to turn their vehicle into a faster, sweeter, custom ride?

Will they be rewinding motors, replacing brushless motor controllers and battery packs with more powerful versions of same?

No, I really don't think so.

That is a very sad thing because I do not think we should underestimate the importance of creating a passion for technology within the minds of the young. As that teenage youth who had to learn so much to keep his worn-out old banger on the road, that experience created a desire to learn more about mechanical systems and the engineering behind them.

Without this catalyst I fear that those who may have gone on to do great things may instead become lawyers, accountants or politicians.

Do we really need more of those?

Oh, the unintended consequences!

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