- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Feb 1953, p. 216-222
- Allcut, Professor Edgar Alfred, Speaker
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- Item Type
- The objective of moving people or things along a highway of some kind. The pertinent enquiry into the nature of the problem and the reasons why past developments occurred as they did, rather than in some other way. The requirement for energy to be either transmitted or stored, as exemplified by the street car. The use of stored energy as the only logical solution. Attempts that have been made to store electrical or some other form of energy and its attendant difficulties. Liquid hydrocarbons, among the various kinds of fuel available, as the most likely to continue for a considerable time to come as the fuel of choice, and reasons why. Canada's supply and demand for oil. The amount, kind and cost of fuel available dictating the future trend of design in the transportation field. Difficulties involved with the steam engine. The low-priced family car, such as is purchased by the average user: requirements to be met. Safety and reliability; low cost; comfort and appearance, with a brief discussion of each. How progress is made, then proven on a practical scale before it can be commercially applied. Gradual changes. The speaker's expectation that future developments in the automotive field will be by evolution rather than by revolution, with the proviso that something entirely unexpected and unforeseen may change the situation substantially.
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- 19 Feb 1953
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- Full Text
- "AUTOMOBILES OF THE FUTURE"
An Address by PROFESSOR EDGAR ALFRED ALLCUT, of the University of Toronto
Thursday, February 19th, 1953
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. John W. Griffin.
MR. GRIFFIN: Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada: our speaker today is Mr. Edgar Alfred Allcut, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Head of the Department at the University of Toronto. Mr. Allcut was born in England and received his professional education at the University of Birmingham from which he was graduated with honours in 1908. His career has embraced industrial experience including a period spent with the Austin Motor Company in the capacity of Chief Inspector of Materials. He has served on numerous committees in all levels of Government and in 1950 was Chairman of the Committee on Atmospheric Pollution in Canada and was formerly Chairman of the Smoke Abatement Advisory Board of the City of Toronto. He has advised the Province of Ontario on matters of mine safety and has been a member of Committees of the National Research Council dealing with motor fuels. Gentlemen, it is a pleasure to present to you a most distinguished engineer who will address us on the subject, "Automobiles of the Future".
PROFESSOR ALLCUT: Spectacular developments in the scientific field during the past few decades have so stimulated the public appetite that it will swallow anything, whether reasonable or not, and fantastic forecasts have been correspondingly numerous. This situation was predicted many years ago by the prophet Joel, who said "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions" but, although I may fairly be classed in one of these categories, I am tempted to add, with T. S. Eliot "I am no prophet--and here's no great matter". Nevertheless, some comfort may be derived from a remark of Lord Byron, viz.: "The best of the prophets of the future is the past". Here I feel more at home, for all of us, without exception, base our expectations for the future on past experience, expressed either through a series of curves or m some less formal manner.
Granted then, that the objective is to move people or things along a highway of some kind, it is pertinent to enquire into the nature of the problem and the reasons why past developments occurred as they did, rather than in some other way. As soon as we get away from animal or wind power (which are inadequate or variable, or both) we are faced with the fact that, for transportation purposes, energy must either be transmitted or stored. The former principle is exemplified by the street car, which receives energy through wires, ropes or rails but, in the very nature of things, this method of supplying power is restricted to definite and prescribed routes. The use of stored energy, therefore, provides the only logical solution of the problem and, as far as we can foresee, this situation is likely to continue. From time-to-time, attempts have been made to store electrical or some other form of energy in appropriate quantities, but usually the apparatus required has been too costly, heavy, bulky or limited in capacity for mobile use and, at present, there is available no reasonable alternative to the generation of power from burning fuel. Many references have been made recently to the possible use of atomic fission for propulsion purposes, but development along these lines appears to be unlikely on account of its inherent hazards, the amount of shielding required and the cost and complication of the apparatus.
The Mighty Atom Our news-hounds, on sensation bent Now follow the atomic scent And calculate, with grim aplomb, The power of the atomic bomb. Then, following their fancy's flight, They vision on the topmost height The genius who, in ivory tower, Unleashes cast atomic power. His tiny engine in its cell Propels us faster far then "Shell" Undaunted by the steepest hill (When fed with an atomic pill). And in the air, atomic planes Are plentiful as railroad trains, While eyes protrude beyond their sockets In following atomic rockets Their prophecies are strange and wild With Pelion and Ossa piled; And engineers, in boredom sunk, Endure their sub-atomic bunk.
Of the various kinds of fuel available, I expect the use of liquid hydrocarbons to continue for a considerable time to come, because they contain a large amount of potential energy in a given weight and space, are easy to handle and burn readily with little residue. The chief objections to their continued use are that our supplies of petroleum are limited and that nearly half of the world's known oil reserves are situated in the Middle East, where their use may be denied to us at any time. These resources may be amplified by the employment of homegrown alcohols, by the liquefaction of gases (such as methane), by the extraction of oil from shales and by the liquefaction of coal. The United States, for example, now has to import about ten per cent of its total oil consumption from foreign sources and has invested over ten million dollars in a coal hydrogenation plant. Even though Canada has made great strides in oil discovery and production, she is not yet self-sufficient and, moreover, in the comparatively near future, she may be called upon to supply some part of the United States' demand. It may be well, therefore, that the amount, kind and cost of fuel available will dictate the future trend of design in the transportation field. The steam engine, which was first used by Cugnot in 1769 and by Murdock, an assistant of James Watt, in 1782, has been tried repeatedly without much success and, even if it were suitable for general use, it is still dependent on liquid fuel. The gas turbine also employs liquid fuel but, apart from this circumstance, I cannot believe that the small high speed unit, .with its inherently low efficiency, will be widely employed in passenger cars. Difficulties of servicing and maintenance alone, will probably tend to delay, and perhaps prevent, its employment in that field. It seems probable, therefore, that the reciprocating engine--the old "up-and-downer" as Whittle calls it--will continue to be the principal prime mover for some time to come, as it has been since the advent of the first high speed engine of Daimler in 1885. This first engine ran at 900 revolutions per minute and the car had a maximum speed of ten miles per hour. While the automotive engine is substantially the same principle as it was sixty-eight years ago, there have been many modifications in matters of detail, with corresponding improvements in power, flexibility, comfort and reliability, combined with successive reductions in cost. I will not weary you by enumerating these, as they are familiar to most, if not to all of you, but future trends in this regard will evidently be governed partly by technical considerations and partly by the customer's requirements or prejudices. In considering these matters, I pro pose to ignore freak cars (and customers)--they, like the poor, are always with us--and to concentrate on the low priced family car, such as is purchased by the average user.
His first requirements are probably safety and reliability. With regard to the former it seems likely that some kind of maximum speed control or governor, geared to the speed of the car (not the engine) will be imposed as a result of popular demand. Some means must be provided for improving visibility, particularly through the rear window, and automatic dipping of headlights is also necessary to reduce road hazards. The possible use of polaroid for eliminating glare is attractive, but has the objections that, to be effective, it must be installed on all cars and also that the amount of light reaching the road from the headlights is seriously reduced. The reduction of the carbon monoxide hazard is associated with better no-draft ventilation. The ventilating air should be taken from the side of the car as otherwise, carbon monoxide is likely to enter the air intake from the exhaust of the same or another car. This hazard is most insidious, as the gas has no smell, and it is probable that many unexplained accidents result from drowsiness induced by the dangerous practice of driving cars in cold weather with all windows shut. Brakes are now reasonably reliable, but they may be improved possibly by using compressed air or some other form of power application. This is of doubtful value, however, as too rapid deceleration is dangerous to the occupants of the car. The extended use of puncture-proof tires is also a very desirable safety feature.
Low cost is likely to assume greater importance, both as regards initial price and upkeep. This calls for simplicity, greater accessibility of working parts and perhaps the elimination of unnecessary fancy gadgets. The fuel costs, in any individual case, are governed by power, speed, acceleration and engine efficiency. The small high speed, low power engine is generally economical and convenient for city driving and its use will probably extend as fuel becomes more expensive. For the rest, a limit of approximately 100 horse power is ample for speed, acceleration and manoeuverability and more powerful engines merely constitute a temptation to the reckless and irresponsible type of driver, who is the principal road hazard at the present time. Many fuel saving devices are offered from time to time, some promising fabulous economies, but few of them are of any value. It would appear that the use of higher compression ratios, probably with the injection of fuel into the cylinders, rather than through a carburettor, offers the best prospect of increased efficiency and economy. It may also reduce the demand for high octane fuels, most of which contain lead. As this metal is likely to be in short supply, the reduction of lead consumption may, in itself, be beneficial. The use of substitute fuels for gasoline may also be facilitated by this means-though, if and when these become popular, the government will probably raise their prices by increased taxation. I expect also to see a greater trend toward the use of hydraulic transmission of power to the wheels, but this is already under way and does not call for further comment.
Comfort and appearance are important factors. The maintenance of a reasonably even temperature by insulation and air conditioning is receiving more attention than heretofore and it may be that a small unit of the "Servel" or other similar type, having no moving parts and operated by heat from the exhaust, will heat the car in winter and cool it in summer. The reduction of driving fatigue by the provision of power controls is also gaining ground, but it is undesirable to make the driver so comfortable that he will go to sleep at the wheel. Streamlining is only effective at high speeds and consequently should be considered mainly as an appearance factor. The proposed use of plastics for body work is attractive and its extended use is quite a possibility but, as yet, too little is known about its cost, ease of repair, durability and other similar attributes to enable its potentialities to be assessed. It has the obvious advantages, however, of freedom from corrosion and "built in" colour. Light metals such as aluminium and magnesium are possible alternatives to steel but are not free from corrosion troubles. If their costs are reasonable, however, it is probable that these practical difficulties will be overcome by some form of special treatment.
Many other aspects of automobile design could be discussed, but time will not permit--indeed, in my preceding remarks, many important factors have been treated too superficially, but the subject is a broad one and it had to be broadly treated. Seldom does it happen nowadays that new processes or products come from flashes of inspiration-in fact, inspiration is usually the result of perspiration. Progress is made, in most instances, by a tedious lengthy research in the laboratory or shop to discover whether or not an idea, which is intrinsically sound, will prove to be workable and economical in practice. Then it has to be proven on a practical scale before it can be commercially applied. The customer cannot be used as a sort of "guinea pig", to try out new ideas-the stakes are too high and the consequences of failure too severe. For this reason, the changes that do occur are generally gradual and few of them are sensational. From my previous remarks, therefore, it is evident that I expect future developments in the automotive field to be by evolution rather than by revolution. No prophet is infallible, however, and some entirely unexpected and unforeseen development may change the situation substantially.
"So, while the crowd gives tongue And prophets, old or young Bawl out their strange despair Or fall in worship there,
Let them applaud the image--or condemn!" (Benet)
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Warren Hastings.