Doug Nye

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

148

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

157

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

On a bookshelf at home is a bound run of the early French motoring journal La France Automobile, which was launched in 1896 by the co-founder of the Automobile Club de France, Paul Meyan. 

In November 1898, Meyan ran a timed hillclimb at Chanteloup, just outside Paris. The course was only a mile and a furlong, and its gradient 1-in-12. But 54 cars entered, 47 finished, and it was won by the Belgian Camille Jenatzy in his CITA electric car, averaging 18mph. First blow for Formula E?

Meyan ran another course de vitesse on a 2000-metre level road in Achères Park, St Germain. The first kilometre provided standing-start speeds, the second a flying-start maximum velocity. Meyan’s aristocratic friend Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat’s Jeantaud electric – powered by a single 36hp motor fed by Fulmen non-rechargeable batteries – clocked 63.157kph or 39.245mph through the flying km and was acclaimed as setting the first world land speed record.

Chasseloup-Laubat’s time through that flying km had been 57secs. Yet most spectators – and certainly the Count himself – had already travelled faster by train, and, deflatingly, the contemporary push-bike record through a flying km was then 56secs – a whole second faster. It would be Laubat’s rival, Jenatzy, who would soon punch the new-fangled LSR beyond pedal-power in his similarly electric car La Jamais Contente.

That was all 121 years ago. But right now, I’m chewing over whether to replace my much-loved, clean-burn, twin-turbocharged diesel car with another, or is it really time to go green(er) and go electric?

I would do so but for none of the current crop of electric cars appealing (to me), and my underlying scepticism about what the environmental campaigners and longing-to-be-loved politicians want us to think.

Way back at the dawn of motoring, would-be buyers had a choice of internal combustion vehicles burning spirit or petrol, or steamers burning spirit or coal, or indeed electrics. Outside the main towns and cities, roads were generally poor so most early private motoring was confined to short distances or just around town. So range was not then a particular consideration.

Early internal combustion engines could be a real pain to start. The twiddle and hand-crank procedure often demanded technical knowledge, skill and muscle. Similarly, warm-up time of up to an hour counted against steam cars, and coal burners were dirty. So it’s no surprise that clean, simple, switch-on-and-go electric gained popularity.

In the 1890s electric taxis filled city streets – the London fleet being charmingly nicknamed ‘Hummingbirds’. But for the electric car it all then went wrong, as oil-derived petrol became cheaper and the engine technology improved, as did road networks, and filling stations proliferated.

“The battery in something like a Tesla can weigh as much as an entire car”

One side-effect of such social liberation has now so damaged our planet’s climate that tremendous political attention pushes today for alternative-technology transport. OK, I’d happily buy electric if there was a model which provided the performance, capacity, comfort and style I like, combined with a 400-mile range – and could be refuelled in a 5-10min service stop.

Weight is the enemy of performance, and the battery alone in something like a Tesla can weigh more than some alternative-power cars do complete. Where recharging is concerned, the downside multiplies. Judging (generously) that recharging batteries takes six times as long as filling a petrol tank, to replace a typical 20-pump motorway service station with equivalent quick-charging points would need 120 120-kilowatt superchargers, requiring a 14.4-megawatt substation – which I’m told is equivalent to the demand of 32,000 homes. And that’s just for one station…

National charging demand would far outstrip current generating capacity. And could the transmission network cope? I’m told no. Then add the environmental cost of generation… and of fresh infrastructure… and of producing (and later scrapping or recycling) the millions of batteries. Whoever comes up with a rapid-recharge power store the size and weight of a fuel tank will make a killing.

If the UK’s 38.4 million registered vehicles each lugged around 700-plus kg of lithium, cobalt and nickel – would there be enough? And what of the environmental cost of mining such metals? Cost is relative to demand. Allegedly VW’s strategists are forecasting a 42-fold increase in the price of cobalt alone.

Yet hydrogen fuel cell technology seems to have been forgotten. The prototype Riversimple hydrogen car – which offers an even cleaner alternative – can run for 300 miles on a 74-litre tank, so 400 miles is within its grasp, and it takes three minutes to refuel. 

In the early 1900s, as the pioneering electric days of de Chasseloup-Laubat, Jenatzy, and those ‘Hummingbirds’ began to wane, their proponents railed about the relative dangers of using highly inflammable, potentially explosive petrol as an alternative fuel. Now that same mindset bleats about the dangers of hydrogen gas. But anyone who has ever witnessed a battery runaway reaction creating an inextinguishable fire will also appreciate the dangers of sparky cars, too.


Doug Nye is the UK’s leading motor racing historian and has been writing authoritatively about the sport since the 1960s

Related articles

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore

Related products

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore