Revolutionizing Transportation: Electric Cars – Past, Present, and Future
Electric vehicles have recently been recognized as being key in technology in helping reduce future emissions and the amount of energy or power used. However, this may come as a surprise, but the electric vehicle has been around for more than a century. It is difficult to pinpoint the invention of the electric car to one inventor or country.
Pioneering the Electric Vehicle:
There was a series of breakthroughs in the 1800s that led to the invention of the electric car, including the battery and the electric motor. It was at the beginning of the 18th century that innovators in Hungary, the Netherlands, and the United States started to toy with the idea of a battery-powered vehicle, including a blacksmith born in Williamsburg, Vermont . His name was Thomas Davenport, born in 1802 and lived to the age of 48. He created the 1st American DC Electric engine in 1834. About 50 years later, an Englishman by the name of Thoman Parker built the first practical, production electric car in London in 1884. The term electric vehicle is commonly used to refer to three main types of electric automobiles: the Battery Electric vehicle, the Hybrid-Electric vehicle, and the Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicle.
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Types of Electric Cars:
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs):
The Hybrid Electric Vehicle has a 2-part drive system, a normal, conventional fuel engine, and an electric drive. HEVs are a combination of both electric vehicles and internal combustion engines. They include an internal combustion engine, fuel tank, transmission, as well as a battery pack and electric motor. Some HEVs only have a smaller size electric motor and battery system, enough to allow the vehicle to move at low speeds. Depending on the level of hybridization of these two engines, these vehicles are referred to as micro-hybrids, mild hybrids, or full hybrids.
In all hybrid electric vehicles, the only source of energy comes from fuel; the electrical energy that the car also uses is generated secondarily from the car’s alternator and/or through regenerative braking. Regenerative braking is a process where the electric motor helps to slow the vehicle and uses some of the energy normally converted to heat by the brakes. HEVs start off using the electric motor, and then the ICE engine cuts in as the weight in the car increases or as the driver begins to speed up. The two motors are controlled by an internal computer, which ensures the best economy for the driving conditions. The hybrid vehicle has been around for almost 20 years now.
Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (pHEVs):
The Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) is a ‘true’ electric vehicle in that the only source of propulsion is electrical energy, and it does not have a petrol engine, fuel tank, or exhaust pipe (EnerGuide). Its greatest asset is that it produces zero emissions. BEVs are also known as ‘plug-in’ E.V.s, as they use an external electrical charging outlet to charge the battery. BEVs can also recharge their batteries if they are low through regenerative braking (Demuro). Battery Electric Vehicles store their electricity with high-capacity battery packs. This battery power is used to run the entire car, all electronics, as well as the motor or motors. Battery electric cars’ electricity is sourced externally, meaning an electrical outlet or BEV charging station is used to recharge the battery.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are very similar to hybrid electric vehicles, except that pHEVs rely mainly on electricity to power the vehicle, not fuel. The PHEV has more battery storage capacity and larger electrical drives than the HEVs. They are also equipped with a smaller internal combustion engine, which is used when the battery starts to run low or to take the place of the electric drivetrain when more power is necessary. Since the PHEVs are rechargeable from an electrical outlet, they are able to be driven completely on electrical power. Comparing the PHEV with the standard hybrid, the rechargeable hybrid increases comfort, and their emissions are far lower, that is, only if you drive it properly and use the electric engine as much as possible.
Advantages and Challenges of Electric Vehicles:
While I’ve already stated many advantages to owning an electric vehicle, here are some more to consider and some of the disadvantages as well. The cost of gasoline heavily depends on the current political situation and our dwindling supplies of oil, which some expect to last us around 50 years. On the other hand, the cost of electricity is stable across the country, and improved sources of renewable power are in active development by some of the largest tech companies in the world. Performing basic calculations, the average electric vehicle can save a driver who drives 15,000 miles in a year about $850 annually on fuel. Adding that together with various tax breaks and government subsidies means that virtually all electric vehicles start to pay for themselves a while before they reach the end of their expected lifespans, leaving the purchaser with significant savings over time.
One overlooked advantage of electric vehicles is the ability to charge them at home or in a parking lot (Morelo). People who live in family houses can simply plug in their vehicles after they return home from work and leave the next morning with batteries fully charged. Fleet vehicles can be charged using smart E.V. charging systems that offer maximum cost savings thanks to advanced energy management tools (Morelo). Currently, the fastest method of charging electric vehicles is known as DC Fast Charging. With it, most electric vehicles reach about 80% of charge in 30 minutes. E.V. owners can also pair home charging stations with solar panels, achieving true zero-carbon driving. But even without a home charging station, it’s becoming easier than ever to charge an E.V. at a public station.
The Obama Administration unlocked up to $4.5 billion in loan guarantees to support the commercial-scale deployment of innovative electric vehicle charging facilities, and Tesla wants to expand their network of Superchargers to cover all well-traveled highways and major city centers.
Noise pollution is detrimental to human health, and the engines of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles are among its most significant sources. According to a study published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, “Tens of millions of Americans suffer from a range of adverse health outcomes due to noise exposure, including heart disease and hearing loss.” The same study claims that “nearly 100 million people in the United States (about 50% of the population) had annual exposures to traffic noise that were high enough to be harmful to health.”At 65 mph, the average interior noise of a car with an internal combustion engine is around 70 dB. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, are almost whisper-quiet.
Overcoming Limitations and Shaping the Future:
Range Anxiety and Technological Improvements:
One of the biggest disadvantages that comes to mind of battery electric cars is their limited range, which leads to what is known as range anxiety. “To give an example, the 2016 Nissan Leaf can travel up to 107 miles on a single charge. The thought of only being able to drive 100 miles on a charge worries a lot of potential customers, who think that the somewhat limited range of electric vehicles isn’t enough to meet their needs” (Demuro). The truth is that electric cars can handle 87% of trips made by gasoline vehicles, according to a study released by MIT(Demuro). That is a number higher than most would have guessed, and it will only get higher as the technology improves and more charging stations are installed across the U.S.
Electric vehicles usually cost more upfront than their gasoline- or diesel-powered counterparts, but they are expected to be cheaper than conventional vehicles by 2022, even if the conventional cars improve their fuel efficiency by 3.5% a year (Demuro). Even though we still have a few years until we get there, most electric vehicles start to pay for themselves a long time before they reach the end of their lifespans, thanks to fuel savings, lower maintenance costs, and government subsidies.
The current state of charging infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired, but the situation is improving very swiftly. A new E.V. Charging Infrastructure report by IHS predicts E.V. charging stations across the world to expand from more than 1 million units in 2014 to more than 12.7 million units in 2020 (Mierlo). And it’s not just the sheer number of charging stations that’s improving, either. Fast charging stations capable of providing 80 miles of electric range per 30-minute charge are now more affordable than ever.
According to a report in 2014 by Navigant Research, more than 3 percent of new vehicle sales are electric and could grow to 7 percent, or 6.6 million worldwide, by 2020. If we swapped all the light-duty vehicles in the U.S. to electric vehicles using our current technology, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 30-60 percent while lowering carbon pollution by as much as 20 percent.
More recent breakthroughs in electric vehicles have been made by Tesla, a car company that has based its business completely on battery-powered cars. Tesla was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tappening and later joined by Elon Musk, Ian Wright, and J.B. Straubel. This group of engineers wanted to prove to people that they didn’t need to compromise when driving an electric car. The founders were influenced to start the company after G.M. destroyed the EV1 electric cars.
In March 2000, G.M. recalled all the electric Gen I EV1s, and in 2003, the company canceled the EV1 program; then, they reclaimed the vehicles and brought them all to be scrapped (Evolution). They released the Tesla Roadster in 2008, the first Tesla vehicle available for customers. One of their newer models is the Model X, which is one of the safest SUVs ever- providing the lowest probability of occupant injury. It also has the most storage room of any SUV in its class, comfortable seating for up to seven adults, and the capability to tow up to 5,000 pounds. Falcon Wing doors are equipped with sensors to monitor the proximity of surroundings and can open in even the tightest parking spaces.
It’s hard to tell where the future will take electric vehicles, but it’s clear they hold a lot of potential for creating a more sustainable future. The future for electric cars seems a bit brighter today as protecting our environment has become an even bigger issue. However, only time and technological advances will tell if electric vehicles will stick around for good this time.
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