Trouble in the tank

In reply to your article ‘Plenty in the tank’ regarding the continuing use of the internal combustion engine to power road vehicles, alongside the pursuit of electric cars, the UK is heading towards a multiple energy supply problem


In reply to your article ‘Plenty in the tank’ (Interview, 10 November) regarding the continuing use of the internal combustion engine to power road vehicles, alongside the pursuit of electric cars, the UK is heading towards a multiple energy supply problem.

This includes the diminishing levels of North Sea oil and gas, the need to import more fuel from abroad and the news that our electricity generating stations are approaching the end of their service life. This means many of our nuclear stations are close to being decommissioned, coal and gas stations need replacing, and yet we have privately-owned energy suppliers who have not yet committed themselves to a sustainable means to provide long-term electrical energy in the UK.

So while cleaner, less polluting vehicles are good, this is all undone when fossil fuels start to become very expensive and difficult to obtain, and biofuels production is insufficient to be a practical replacement. combustion engines convert most of the fuel energy into heat and sound, rather than mechanical energy. So the energy transfer efficiency is very poor, thereby exacerbating the problem of reducing fossil fuel supplies and the difficulty of producing biofuels in large volumes.

The idea of an electric car would appear to be good. However, the problem in the UK is generating sufficient electricity, again made worse by so many generating stations needing replacement and being dependent upon fossil fuels. In addition, the generation and transmission losses involved with electricity, and the charging losses of a battery, means that the total energy transfer efficiency is not really that much better when considering pure electric cars.

The future is perhaps best served by dealing with the energy production methods, as without reliable, sustainable supplies the most efficient internal combustion engine-powered cars will be wasted.

Andrew Porter, EADS Astrium

Stevenage, Hertfordshire