Revolution is a post-apocalyptic TV series, where the main premise is that some sort of technology was used to disable electricity (as in not just the mains but electricity even in batteries doesn't work).

As far as I know not all diesel engines have glowplugs and those that do can be started if they are not functioning, not to mention that from what I understand, the function of a glowplug could be replicated by heating the car (ie putting it near a fire). In addition diesel engines can be run on straight vegetable oil, which seems pretty useful in a world where fuel pumps no longer work and farming has become common place. And horses (horses are very abundant in the Revolution universe) could be used to roll start larger diesel vehicles.

So why are there no cars at all? Not only that but they go so far as to get a steam train running (note that the tracks had not been used for many years so it's not just locating, moving and servicing a train, it's also servicing the tracks), a seemingly more complex task than roll starting a diesel engine with non functioning glowplugs.

Is there something I'm not getting about real world or in-universe physics here?

Edit: I was referring to older model cars which do not use computer/electricity for any of the necessary functions (eg fuel injection). I would like to add to that any homemade device which makes use of a diesel engine, for example a home-made vehicle or a home-made water pump.

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    There is also no reason for a plane to stop working and then fall straight down, so I think science is not with us here. – Adele C Mar 6 '13 at 0:39
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    Science does not work the way it should in the Revolution universe. It is likely because the writers did not know diesel technology SHOULD WORK even without electrical power. So the very nature of the technology oppressing electricity defies the laws of physics as we understand them. This question CANNOT be answered except to say THE WRITERS DON'T KNOW SCIENCE. This certainly shouldn't be a surprise to anyone here. – Thaddeus Howze Mar 6 '13 at 2:29
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    The real question is why everyone doesn't drop down dead as their ATPsynthase enzyme stops working. Your cells generate power by a current of protons across a membrane. Movement of charged particles is electricity (if a battery stops working, then chemistry isn't working, and the human body runs on chemical power...) – Nick Mar 6 '13 at 10:30
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    Let's operate on Clarke's Third Law and assume that they had tech which selectively blocked current from non-biological entities. – TheBlindBandit Mar 6 '13 at 11:11
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    @Tim: I think you mean, almost all planes today are fly-by-wire, which means they're electronically/computer controlled rather than using direct mechanical (hydraulics, cables, etc.) linkages. And this is technically only true of larger planes (airliners, corporate jets, etc.) and military vehicles. And even then, most current fly-by-wire systems are designed to continue operating in the case of full electrical failure. You would lose most instrumentation and possibly aerodynamic assistance, but you still have the ability to manipulate flight surfaces using the the hydraulics. – Lèse majesté Sep 20 '13 at 2:53

Extrapolating from other details in Revolution, like the scarcity of ammo for hoarded/confiscated automatic weapons, it would be reasonable to assume that the skills, knowledge and manufacturing infrastructure to make a diesel engine, or a steam engine or a flush toilet for that matter, has been lost. So any diesel vehicles would have to be scavenged and as already noted, there aren't that many around today that don't require some kind of electronics.

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    As I have mentioned in the question they managed to get a steam train running. – TheBlindBandit Mar 25 '13 at 19:02

Glowplugs (or sparkplugs in Britain and Australia) are only one of the electrical things that a modern car has - fuel is typically pumped from the tank using an electric pump, and practically all cars use ECU computers. So, just because a diesel doesn't need sparkplugs (and some do still use them to heat the fuel) doesn't mean it doesn't need electricity to run.


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    a glowplug is not the same as a sparkplug... A glowplug is a hot glowing piece of metal, a spark plug has 2 sharp terminals in between which an electric spark will travel if a strong enough voltage difference is applied between them. – jwenting Mar 6 '13 at 9:39
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    That doesn't explain why old cars which don't have computers, and there are plenty of those around, aren't being used. Or why home-made go kart-like vehicles don't get used. – TheBlindBandit Mar 6 '13 at 9:51
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    Even old cars without computers still required electricity to work. But I do agree that you should be able to get an old style diesel with a mechanical fuel pump and a crank start working without any electricity at all. – BBlake Mar 6 '13 at 15:00
  • @BBlake Yep, kinda like the steam-powered train they had running for a couple episodes. – Izkata Apr 11 '13 at 0:32

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