After what has seemed like ages, the motor industry is starting to innovate, highlights Iain Robertson, and he attributes the arrival of electrification as its major cause celebre, although removing the brakes from its latest concept might stretch the imaginations of some drivers.
No great shakes at electronic gameplay, I entered the X-Box fray somewhat later than colleagues, friends and relatives. My attraction was centred neither on competing with a 12 year old from Vietnam, nor a 90 year old from Seattle, both of which I understood to be possible, but assessing the magical properties of the product, of which there appeared to be an abundance. The screen graphics were astonishingly brilliant and, after visiting the ‘car store’ and specifying a ‘beginner’s’ model, I found myself swooning virtually with every successive ‘outing’. Driving a city racetrack based on London, long before the present day E-Championship actual racing cars did so, was little less than remarkable.
As I familiarised my talents with the controls of the X-Box, apart from minute electronically induced ‘feedback’, the amount of remote deadness was clear. Yet, the apparent dynamic reactions were as faithful to the real cars, as the engine, gearbox and tyre soundtracks. With greater intensity, chassis characteristics both good and evil could be dialled-in, almost as though I were running the most accessible and well-equipped tuning shop in the world. It is incredibly easy to become beguiled by the technology, which, as you can imagine, has moved onwards and upwards since my early-Millennial meanderings. Yet, at no stage did I believe that my sometime hooligan on-screen driving standards, a factor allowed by a strictly limited ‘damage’ setting, might have an influence on my actual driving…but it could, rather too easily.
Extrapolating that aspect by technology sharing between electronic and actual cars seemed, in truth, less likely…but, then it did. While minimal dentage meant a constant ‘get-out-of-gaol-card’ and zero garage bills, Elon Musk, a most unlikely car man, was developing his electric vehicles that would make the world’s head spin. Targeting technology from the outset, self-driving autonomy was a primary goal, with crash avoidance an ancillary gain. How such sorcery might occur lay in the judicious placement on the car of multiple cameras and proximity sensors…although only a limited reaction was raised about denigrated road markings as an essential component of the mix. However, Artificial Intelligence would also introduce virtual reality to ensure that the rules of the road could be ‘invented’ as progress was made. While Volvo and EU-supported platooning along major highways still presents issues, self-driving autonomy is not just present and correct but is also ready to trial in the UK.
Using its electric Formula E racecar platform as inspiration, the one-off DS Intense is a Gallically fussy Audi TT lookalike that dips into an over-800bhp rated power source for a 0-60mph blast in less than 2.0s. However, its true calling card is its lack of brakes. Without a single rotor, calliper, or friction material, this DS can howl to a halt as quickly as the finest Brembo set-up ever could. It uses two onboard electric motors to slow the vehicle entirely through regenerative braking, up to 600 kW. Although regenerative braking is already available in most electric vehicles, the technology is used presently to complement conventional friction brakes, however DS is exploring whether regenerative braking alone could be eventually the sole method to slow cars down, helping to better recharge the battery in the process and doing away with conventional brake discs and pads. It is a fascinating power management proposition, as innumerable costly servicing issues have already arisen in the EVs and BEVs sector in respect of retardation systems.
By reversing polarity of a driving electric motor, the opposite effect occurs and the vehicle slows as abruptly as its management system will allow, without any additional working parts that only add to the EV’s burgeoning weight penalty. In some ways, this form of ‘braking’ ought to be described as ground breaking and, while I am sure that DS (as part of the former Peugeot-Citroen operation) is more of a follower than a leader, it is certainly first to market with the development that I am 100% certain will be adopted by every EV and BEV-maker in due course. Its wear and tear benefits are clear but its battery recharging may possess longer-term positive implications that none will wish to deny.
The car itself is an expensive frippery. It will never see production.
Conclusion: While ‘caveat emptor’ remains a strident rallying call as we course towards 2030 and the new era of transport electrification, some spin-off benefits are already being perceived. It is hoped that more will follow friction-free retardation into common consciousness.