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内燃机曾经辉煌,但这种改变了世界的机器末日渐至 | Jooyee 聚译网

内燃机曾经辉煌,但这种改变了世界的机器末日渐至

The death of the internal combustion engine

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今日爆点:内燃机!

“HUMAN inventiveness…has still not found a mechanical process to replace horses as the propulsion for vehicles,” lamented Le Petit Journal, a French newspaper, in December 1893. Its answer was to organise the Paris-Rouen race for horseless carriages, held the following July. The 102 entrants included vehicles powered by steam, petrol, electricity, compressed air and hydraulics. Only 21 qualified for the 126km (78-mile) race, which attracted huge crowds. The clear winner was the internal combustion engine. Over the next century it would go on to power industry and change the world. 

“以人类的创造力......竟仍未找到一种取代马匹拉动车辆的机械方式。”1893年12月,法国报纸《小日报》(Le Petit Journal)发出如此哀叹。次年7月举办的巴黎至鲁昂的“无马马车”比赛对此哀叹做出了回应。102辆车报名,动力方式包括蒸汽、汽油、电力、压缩空气和液压装置。最终只有21辆车获得参加这一126公里比赛的资格,吸引了大量民众前来观看。内燃机大获全胜。在接下来的一个世纪里,它又为工业发展提供动力,改变了整个世界。

The big end

But its days are numbered. Rapid gains in battery technology favour electric motors instead. In Paris in 1894 not a single electric car made it to the starting line, partly because they needed battery-replacement stations every 30km or so. Today’s electric cars, powered by lithium-ion batteries, can do much better. The Chevy Bolt has a range of 383km; Tesla fans recently drove a Model S more than 1,000km on a single charge. UBS, a bank, reckons the “total cost of ownership” of an electric car will reach parity with a petrol one next year—albeit at a loss to its manufacturer. It optimistically predicts electric vehicles will make up 14% of global car sales by 2025, up from 1% today. Others have more modest forecasts, but are hurriedly revising them upwards as batteries get cheaper and better—the cost per kilowatt-hour has fallen from $1,000 in 2010 to $130-200 today. Regulations are tightening, too. Last month Britain joined a lengthening list of electric-only countries, saying that all new cars must be zero-emission by 2050.

大限将至

但属于内燃机的日子不多了。电池技术的快速进步对电动汽车更有利。在1894年的巴黎,没有一部电动汽车最终驶出起跑线,部分原因是当时的电动汽车需要每30公里左右就设置一个电池更换站。如今的电动汽车由锂离子电池供电,续航能力倍增。雪佛兰博尔特的续航里程为383公里;特斯拉车迷最近驾驶的一辆Model S在一次充电后行驶了超过1000公里。瑞银(UBS)估计,到明年,一辆电动汽车的“总拥有成本”将与燃油汽车持平——虽然电动车的制造商仍然会亏钱。瑞银乐观地预测,到2025年,电动汽车将占全球汽车销量的14%,远高于今天的1%。其他机构的预测要谨慎些,但也在加紧调高预测结果,原因是电池的成本降低、性能提升——每千瓦时的成本已经从2010年的1000美元降至今天的130至200美元。对燃油车的监管也在收紧。禁售燃油汽车的国家不断增多,英国也于上月加入这一行列,声明到2050年,所有新车必须实现零排放。

The shift from fuel and pistons to batteries and electric motors is unlikely to take that long. The first death rattles of the internal combustion engine are already reverberating around the world—and many of the consequences will be welcome. 从燃油和活塞向电池和电动机的转变可能用不着这么长时间。内燃机的第一轮临终哀鸣已回荡在世界各地,而内燃机消亡带来的大部分结果也将为世人所乐见。

To gauge what lies ahead, think how the internal combustion engine has shaped modern life. The rich world was rebuilt for motor vehicles, with huge investments in road networks and the invention of suburbia, along with shopping malls and drive-through restaurants. Roughly 85% of American workers commute by car. Carmaking was also a generator of economic development and the expansion of the middle class, in post-war America and elsewhere. There are now about 1bn cars on the road, almost all powered by fossil fuels. Though most of them sit idle, America’s car and lorry engines can produce ten times as much energy as its power stations. The internal combustion engine is the mightiest motor in history. 

要估计未来的前景,可以想想内燃机如何塑造了现代生活。富裕国家以汽车为出发点进行了重建,投入巨资修建道路网络,发明了郊区以及大型购物中心和汽车餐厅。约85%的美国上班族开车上下班。在二战后的美国和其他地方,汽车制造业也一度是经济发展和中产阶级扩张的动力。如今全世界的汽车保有量约为10亿辆,几乎全部靠化石燃料驱动。虽然美国的汽车和卡车发动机多数处于停止状态,它们却可以产生十倍于美国发电站发电量的能量。内燃机是历史上最强大的发动机。

But electrification has thrown the car industry into turmoil. Its best brands are founded on their engineering heritage—especially in Germany. Compared with existing vehicles, electric cars are much simpler and have fewer parts; they are more like computers on wheels. That means they need fewer people to assemble them and fewer subsidiary systems from specialist suppliers. Carworkers at factories that do not make electric cars are worried that they could be for the chop. With less to go wrong, the market for maintenance and spare parts will shrink. While today’s carmakers grapple with their costly legacy of old factories and swollen workforces, new entrants will be unencumbered. Premium brands may be able to stand out through styling and handling, but low-margin, mass-market carmakers will have to compete chiefly on cost. 

但电动化让汽车业陷入了动荡。最好的汽车品牌建立在工程技术传承的基础上,特别是在德国。与现有车辆相比,电动汽车要简单得多,零部件也更少,更像是装在轮子上的电脑。这意味着电动车不需要那么多人来组装,需要专业供应商提供的辅助系统也更少。在不生产电动汽车的汽车工厂里,工人担心他们可能饭碗不保。发生故障的情况少了,维修和零部件市场也会随之萎缩。工厂陈旧,员工队伍臃肿,这样的历史包袱让如今的汽车制造商不堪重负,而后来者将可轻装上阵。高端品牌也许仍能依靠外形设计和操控性能保有一席之地,但面向大众市场的低利润汽车制造商未来只能主要在成本方面展开竞争。

Assuming, of course, that people want to own cars at all. Electric propulsion, along with ride-hailing and self-driving technology, could mean that ownership is largely replaced by “transport as a service”, in which fleets of cars offer rides on demand. On the most extreme estimates, that could shrink the industry by as much as 90%. Lots of shared, self-driving electric cars would let cities replace car parks (up to 24% of the area in some places) with new housing, and let people commute from far away as they sleep—suburbanisation in reverse. 

当然,这是在人们想要拥有车辆的假设下做出的判断。电力推进系统,加上共享汽车和无人驾驶技术,可能会让“交通即服务”的模式——即车辆按需提供出行服务——取代大部分自有车辆。最极端的估计是,汽车行业规模可能缩减高达90%。大量共享的无人驾驶电动汽车将会让城市把停车场(在某些地方占总面积24%之多)改成新的住房。人们可以住得更远,并在通勤的路上睡觉,城市郊区化的趋势将发生逆转。

Even without a shift to safe, self-driving vehicles, electric propulsion will offer enormous environmental and health benefits. Charging car batteries from central power stations is more efficient than burning fuel in separate engines. Existing electric cars reduce carbon emissions by 54% compared with petrol-powered ones, according to America’s National Resources Defence Council. That figure will rise as electric cars become more efficient and grid-generation becomes greener. Local air pollution will fall, too. The World Health Organisation says that it is the single largest environmental health risk, with outdoor air pollution contributing to 3.7m deaths a year. One study found that car emissions kill 53,000 Americans each year, against 34,000 who die in traffic accidents. 

即使安全的无人驾驶汽车无法大行其道,电力动力也将带来巨大的环境和健康效益。通过中央发电站给汽车电池充电要比单个发动机燃烧燃料更有效率。根据美国国家资源保护委员会(National Resources Defence Council)的统计,现有电动汽车比燃油汽车降低了54%的碳排放。随着电动汽车变得更高效、电网发电更加环保,这一数字还会上升。局部空气污染也会下降。世界卫生组织表示,室外空气污染每年造成370万人死亡,是最大的环境卫生风险。一项研究发现,汽车排放每年造成5.3万名美国人死亡,而在交通事故中死亡的人数为3.4万人。

Autos and autocracies

And then there is oil. Roughly two-thirds of oil consumption in America is on the roads, and a fair amount of the rest uses up the by-products of refining crude oil to make petrol and diesel. The oil industry is divided about when to expect peak demand; Royal Dutch Shell says that it could be little more than a decade away. The prospect will weigh on prices long before then. Because nobody wants to be left with useless oil in the ground, there will be a dearth of new investment, especially in new, high-cost areas such as the Arctic. By contrast, producers such as Saudi Arabia, with vast reserves that can be tapped cheaply, will be under pressure to get pumping before it is too late: the Middle East will still matter, but a lot less than it did. Although there will still be a market for natural gas, which will help generate power for all those electric cars, volatile oil prices will strain countries that depend on hydrocarbon revenues to fill the national coffers. When volumes fall, the adjustment will be fraught, particularly where the struggle for power has long been about controlling oil wealth. In countries such as Angola and Nigeria where oil has often been a curse, the diffusion of economic clout may bring immense benefits.

汽车与独裁

然后还有石油问题。美国大约三分之二的石油都被汽车所消耗,剩下相当大的一部分则使用提炼原油所产生的全部副产品来生产汽油和柴油。石油行业对需求何时见顶意见不一,荷兰皇家壳牌公司表示可能只要十年多一点的时间。而远在需求见顶之前,石油价格就会受到影响。由于没有人愿意到最后在地下囤着无用的石油,因此新投资将会不足,特别是在北极这样高成本的新地区。相反,沙特阿拉伯这样的石油生产国储量丰富、开采成本低,将会有压力在还用得上之时尽快开采:中东地区仍然会很重要,但远不及以往。尽管天然气仍然会有市场,可以为所有电动汽车提供电力,但油价波动将使依靠碳氢化合物收入填充国库的国家备受压力。需求量下降时,调整过程将令人担忧,特别是长期围绕着石油资源控制权进行权力斗争的国家。在安哥拉和尼日利亚这样的国家,石油经常是种诅咒,石油产业的影响力降低可能会带来巨大好处。

Meanwhile, a scramble for lithium is under way. The price of lithium carbonate has risen from $4,000 a tonne in 2011 to more than $14,000. Demand for cobalt and rare-earth elements for electric motors is also soaring. Lithium is used not just to power cars: utilities want giant batteries to store energy when demand is slack and release it as it peaks. Will all this make lithium-rich Chile the new Saudi Arabia? Not exactly, because electric cars do not consume it; old lithium-ion batteries from cars can be reused in power grids, and then recycled. 

同时,锂资源的争夺战已然打响。碳酸锂的价格从2011年的每吨4000美元上涨到了1.4万多美元。对电动机里钴和稀土元素的需求也在飞涨。锂不仅用于电动汽车的电池,电力公司还希望巨型电池能在用电低谷时储存电力,在用电高峰时释放。所有这一切会让锂资源丰富的智利成为下一个沙特吗?也不尽然,因为电动汽车不直接消耗掉锂:汽车的旧锂电子电池可以在电网中再利用,然后再加以回收。

The internal combustion engine has had a good run—and could still dominate shipping and aviation for decades to come. But on land electric motors will soon offer freedom and convenience more cheaply and cleanly. As the switch to electric cars reverses the trend in the rich world towards falling electricity consumption, policymakers will need to help, by ensuring that there is enough generating capacity—in spite of many countries’ broken system of regulation. They may need to be the midwives to new rules and standards for public recharging stations, and the recycling of batteries, rare-earth motors and other components in “urban mines”. And they will have to cope with the turmoil as old factory jobs disappear. 

内燃机历史辉煌,未来几十年来仍然可以主导航运和航空业。但是在陆地上,电动马达将很快以更便宜、更清洁的方式带来自由和便利。随着电动汽车逐步取代燃油汽车,富裕国家电力消耗下降的趋势将会扭转,政策制定者需要确保有足够的发电能力来满足需求,尽管目前许多国家的监管系统还不完善。他们可能需要促成有关公共充电站的新规则和标准,规范如何回收利用“城市矿山”中的电池、含稀土的电机和其他部件,还将不得不应对随传统工厂就业岗位消失而来的社会动荡。

Driverless electric cars in the 21st century are likely to improve the world in profound and unexpected ways, just as vehicles powered by internal combustion engines did in the 20th. But it will be a bumpy road. Buckle up.

二十一世纪的无人驾驶电动汽车可能会以深刻而意想不到的方式造福世界,就像二十世纪的内燃机汽车一样。不过前路崎岖,要系好安全带。


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