NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 29, 2008

A little respect, please.  For gasoline.  Yes, it contributes to pollution, it's "nonrenewable" and we haven't learned to use it as efficiently as we could.  But the fact remains: no other fuel delivers so much energy in such a small package with such flexibility, utility, safety and simplicity, says Ralph Kinney Bennett, writing in the American magazine.

Oddly, nothing better illustrates the overall efficacy of gasoline than an electric car, adds Bennett.  Right now the impressive Tesla electric roadster is the darling of the automotive press.  Its beguiling style and cutting-edge technology have made it a sensation, albeit an expensive one, at close to $100,000 a copy, says Bennett:

  • Instead of conventional lead-acid batteries or nickel metal-hydride (NiMh) batteries, the Tesla draws its energy from an elaborate and sophisticated array of 6,831 interconnected lithium-ion batteries.
  • These batteries, each a little bigger than a common AA alkaline, are immersed in a liquid cooling system to prevent them from becoming too hot and possibly bursting into flames when under the stress of feeding a total of 375 volts to the Tesla's electric induction motor.
  • But while the Tesla's batteries are cooling off and its dash displays are flashing warnings about decreased range and automatically restricting the electric motor's torque, gas cars can keep running smoothly.

So for all its technological edginess, the Tesla is really just another example of why gasoline is still king.  Crude oil can contain as many as 100,000 carbon compounds, and gasoline is a refined blend of several hundred of these compounds, formulated to perform in extremes of hot and cold and at widely varied altitudes, not burn too fast or too slowly, burn as cleanly as possible and remain stable during transportation and storage, says Bennett.

Source: Ralph Kinney Bennett, "Why Gasoline Is Still King," The American, December 17, 2008.

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