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Electric Vehicles Research Paper

The beginning of the 21st century made the world stop and think about the major problems and concerns of the modern society with the environmental pollution being one of the most acute ones. Being one of the most burning issues of the present-day world, ecologic disaster troubles a lot of ordinary people and famous scientists, who are trying to invent products less harmful to the nature. Air pollution and greenhouse effect became a concern for many countries, who are now trying to find ways out in order to improve the situation. Though air is being polluted with great variety of harmful substances, the pollution of it with exhaust fumes coming from automobiles contributes a lot to the creation of greenhouse effect. For this reason many researches have been conducted to find out ways to prevent the air from being polluted even more. Nowadays, the ways that have been found appear to be very expensive to make a reality, that’s why further researches are needed and government and private companies should think about it and invest money in this field of science.

There is not secret that automobiles are major contributors to the air pollution. Every day millions of cars all over the world serve millions of people, who later suffer incurable diseases resulted from polluted environment they live in. Having realized the problem, scientist offered an alternative to an automobile working without the help of fuel. They created a car, which could work by means of electricity. To be exact, such cars already existed in the early 1900s; however, they were replaced by gasoline powered vehicles, which stay very popular nowadays. With the increasing prices for gasoline and harm that is done to environment by the usage of gasoline powered vehicles major automobile makers started to think about producing electric vehicles. Some of them have already introduced several models. That’s why electric vehicles will surely be in demand in future.

The main goal of the current study is to speak about electric vehicles, their advantages and disadvantages, cost of production and usage. The paper will focus on major producers offering electric vehicles and benefits that the usage of electric vehicles will bring.

Electric Vehicles

Being vehicles that are powered by electricity instead of being powered by gasoline, electric vehicles can be of several types. They can be provided by solar or photovoltaic cells, by fuel cells or special batteries. Because an electric motor is used in such cars, they do not emit those harmful air pollutants as regular cars do. Some of the automobile markers offer so-called hybrid electric vehicles, which combine the qualities of internal combustion engines and electric motors. Obvious advantage of such cars is that they use “batteries when the car is moving slowly, and a gasoline engine on the highways, it never needs to be plugged in, promises fuel mileage over 55 miles per gallon (similar conventional cars get about 30), and greatly reduced pollution. It also features a brand-new electronic steering system”[4]. That is why it is possible to identify three basic types of electric vehicles, which are battery operated electric vehicles (BEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and Fuel Cells electric vehicles (FCEV). The difference between the three types lies in the following. Battery electric vehicles operate only by means of batteries, while HEV have both a battery and an engine that uses gasoline, diesel or other fuels. In battery operated EVs lithium-ion batteries can be used, which “pack a lot of power into a very small battery” [8]. However, there is a certain danger lying behind the usage of such batteries, because “their high-energy density makes them susceptible to fire and may pose serious safety concerns” [8]. For this reason automobile makers, which produce EVs, “solve this by fitting car battery cases with fans that blow excess heat away” [8] that adds another complexity to the usage of EVs by vast masses of people. These fans are rather difficult to manufacture for producers and they increase the cost of EVs, making them rather difficult to purchase for people with average income. Fuel Cell electric vehicles work by means of fuel cells, which are “galvanic energy conversion devices that convert the chemical energy of a fuel directly into electrical energy in the presence of an oxidant” [5]. FCEV do not produce any harmful substances, however, fuel cell industry is relatively new but rather promising. There is no doubt that fuel cell industry will go globally, creating new competitive environment, but high costs of production of Fuel Cell electric vehicles prevents them from being purchasable by many people. FCEVs are rather simple in operation, and consist of three main components: “the fuel cell itself, an electric motor for vehicle propulsion, and a hydrogen storage system” [2].

Automobile producers also differentiate between light-duty, heavy-duty EVs and neighbourhood EVs. Light-duty electric vehicles include electric bicycles, tricycles, scooters, golf carts and others. Heavy-duty electric vehicles include electric trams and buses, which are used for passengers’ transportation. Neighbourhood electric vehicles use “similar battery technology and are often used in limited on-road fleet applications” [6].

Despite of the fact that only now, at the beginning of the 21st century, people started to extensively speak about electric vehicles, they appeared long before gasoline operated vehicles did. The history of EVs dates back to the end of the 19th century, when they were first developed in England and France. The USA created its first electric vehicle at the beginning of the 20th century. That’s why electric vehicles “are not really a brand new idea” [3], however, they seem rather new because for almost a century automobiles with engines of internal combustion have won the hearts of all car owners all over the world. The situation has changed due to great environmental pollution caused by this type of vehicles and the increasing prices for fuels. For this reason, “several companies, such as Honda, Toyota, and Ford, have introduced electric vehicles” [3]. For example Honda “has introduced a new hybrid Civic model that gets over 50 miles per gallon of gasoline by teaming up an electric motor with a gasoline engine to provide power to drive the car” [3]. Ford also created an HEV “Escape”, which “combines the performance of a gasoline engine and the economy of an electric vehicle” [3]. Nowadays, modern scientists are trying to adopt the experience of 18-19th century scientists-inventors of the electric vehicles and introduce this type of vehicles to vast masses of population. That’s why a question rises whether “a few hundred, or even a few hundred thousand, EVs will make no difference to air quality in a country with 180 million cars, trucks and buses on the road” [1]. It is clear that as large as the USA is, it will need millions of electric vehicles to improve its ecological situation. The main challenge for EV industry is to “design and produce a car that can compete with the performance, cost, safety and durability of gasoline vehicles” [1], but it won’t be easy.

In order to understand why electric vehicles may or may not become wide spread in future, it is necessary to consider advantages and disadvantages of EVs. Speaking about the advantages of electric vehicles it is important to note that there are advantages of EVs as compared to gasoline supplied vehicles, but there are also advantages of battery operated electric vehicles as compared to hybrid EVs. BEVs are designed to be absolutely emission free. Thus, they do not produce any dangerous by-products and cause no harm to the natural environment, while internal-combustion engine cars greatly pollute the air, contributing much to the general pollution of the natural environment. In their turn hybrid EVs are less harmful than cars with internal combustion engines in terms of ecological effect, however, are more harmful as compared to the battery EVs. Every electric vehicle requires a new system of charging battery; however, it is rather easy in operation, causing no difficulties to its owners. Besides being much cleaner than usual cars, electric automobiles are more fuel-efficient, especially Fuel Cell EVs, which have light weight, have zero emission and are absolutely safe. Actually, FCEVs are much more efficient than any other type of electric vehicle. As for HEVs, they produce “very low emissions because of their electric powertrains and their highly efficient internal combustion engines” [7]. Generally speaking, considering all characteristics of electric vehicles, they “remain cleaner than comparable gasoline-powered vehicle even when the electricity they use derives from polluting fuels like coal” [7]. This happens, because nowadays modern plants are able to generate electricity more efficiently producing fewer harmful emissions. Also, specialists state that there is no difference in driving an electric vehicle if it is well-designed.

Despite of all advantages of EVs a lot of time is necessary to introduce electric vehicles to the common usage. The difficulties with making EVs attractive to consumers are conditioned by a rather extensive list of disadvantages of electric vehicles. First of all it is their cost, which exceeds the purchasing power of the majority of people. The most expensive type of electric automobile is Fuel Cell electric car, which costs around $100,000. It has been stated by the adherents of internal-combustion engines that “the same barriers drove EVs out of the early automobile markets” [1]. The second disadvantage is the maximum speed of electric vehicles, which cannot “travel more than 150 miles on a charge, even under the most ideal driving conditions” [1]. It is obvious that the maximum speed would be even lower under bad weather conditions. Another disadvantage is that recharging of battery takes significant amount of time, while it is necessary to recharge the batteries rather often. Electric automobiles cannot compete with gasoline powered vehicles in terms of manoeuvrability; they don’t have such popular accessories as radios and air conditioning. As it has been stated above, it is rather costly to purchase and maintain electric vehicles, and people, who would be able to buy electric vehicles, will not contribute much to the improvement of ecologic situation. There are millions of gasoline powered cars, which would need to be replaced by the electric ones in order to decrease the pollution of air with dangerous emissions. For this reason, it is necessary to develop a program encouraging people to use electric vehicles, because not all of us care about the environment, which gets more and more polluted every day.

There is still a long way to go to improve electric vehicles, however, significant advances has been made in EV industry. Of course electric automobiles that are available today “don’t match the performance of their gasoline powered brethren, they are markedly better machines than they were even a few years ago [1]. EV industry will certainly make progress in future; however, it will take a while for people to switch from their gasoline cars to electric automobiles. EV industry does not only offer regular automobiles, however, it produces vehicles that may be used by people to fulfil their daily errands. Such vehicles are unable to develop high speed; however, scientists have concluded that people, fulfilling their daily errands, go no further than 10-15 miles, which mean that they do not necessarily need a vehicle with extremely high speed.

As it has been stated above, such major producers of automobiles as Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM and others have already paid their attention to electric vehicles and some of them have already offered automobiles that use only battery or are hybrid EVs. What they need to do, is to find ways to reduce the cost of production for such vehicles in order to make them available for people. In several decades there definitely will be a lot more electric automobiles in the streets, when people realize what harm it is done to the nature. Indeed, it is necessary to realize right it now when a lot of scientists all over the world proclaim that the average temperature on the Earth became higher by at least four degrees.

Conclusion

Being a reality of people’s every day life, electric vehicles will gradually substitute gasoline powered vehicles when all of the people stop and think about the future of the planet. Despite of the fact that electric vehicles have been much criticized for being too slow, for having no air conditioning and for taking much time to recharge the battery, rising costs of gasoline and other fuels, and air pollution will eventually make people use electric vehicles more. Possible benefits of usage of EVs include economizing of fuel by using them only to produce electricity but not to move the vehicle, and cleaning the environment by reducing harmful substances emitted by gasoline powered automobiles.

Bibliography

1. Brown, M.H., Cummins J. (1995). Make Way for the Electric Car. State Legislatures, Vol. 21.
2. Edinger, R., Kaul, S. (2003). Sustainable Mobility: Renewable Energies for Powering Fuel Cell Vehicles. Praeger.
3. Walter F. Deal III. (2004). Electric Motors Everywhere: Most Forms of Energy Go through Some Conversion Process to Do Useful Work for Us. The Technology Teacher, Vol. 64.
4. Electric Dreams Come True. The American Enterprise, Vol. 14, September 2003.
5. Energy Research and Development: Glossary. On-line. Available from Internet http://energytrends.pnl.gov/glose_h.htm, accessed 10 January 2007.
6. Light Electric Vehicles (LEV). On-line. Available from Internet www.electric-bikes.com/lev.htm, accessed 10 January 2007.
7. Just the Basics: Electric Vehicles. On-line. Available from Internet. www.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/basics/jtb_electric_vehicle.pdf, accessed 10 January 2007.
8. Wax May Make Electric Cars a Reality. USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), Vol. 131, August 2002.

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