Electric Vehicles or EVs as I will be referring to them throughout this article are the recent "bomb" in this modern age, especially due to the issue of global warming and health hazards that our conventional cars seem to produce. Sure the trending electric cars evolved due to global issues, but with recent developments, they now seem to be competing with the conventional ICE - Internal Combustion Engine - Vehicles because apart from 0% CO2 gas emission they offer, they have better speeds, they are light, compact and simple, require less maintenance and most importantly they save cost on fuel.
EVs - New Technology?
A lot of businesses have featured the electric vehicle as new technology, even in schools we have always thought of electric vehicles like the new technology that was produced to reduce or stop the contribution of ICE vehicles to rapid global and climate changes but when we follow history we see something different. Electric Vehicles have been in existence since the 19th century (the 1800s), one of the very first practical and rechargeable electric vehicles was built in the year 1859 following the invention of the Lead Acid batteries that surfaced about the same time.
So What Happened, why did the ICE vehicles take over the market? Not just one but a lot of different factors contributed to the decline of electric vehicles from the automobile market until recently. Some of these factors include but are not limited to speed, energy storage, battery weight, availability of power and so much more.
Though the recent Tesla Model 3 and other similar electric vehicles are known to reach a top speed of 130 mph (210km/h) and cover ranges up to 220 mi (350km), back in the 19th-century electric cars were very slow and covered only short ranges in a single charge compared to then gasoline and steam engine cars. Their speed was 15 - 20 mph on the average and they covered a short range of only 30 - 40 mi, well you would'nt expect much the technology then was still at the basic level .
Despite the contribution of speed, one of the major factors that led to the decline of EVs still remains energy storage. Gasoline one of the major source of energy for the ICE-based cars is known to store or provide about 12000 Whr/kg, though most of it is lost to the inefficiency of the ICE engines (about 60 - 80% loss). Neglecting the loss, 12000 Whr/kg is a huge amount of energy compared to that provided by the Lead-Acid battery that existed in 1900, which could roughly provide 10 Whr/kg. Even with the wide research on batteries in the 20th century, the Lead-Acid batteries could only provide as much as 35 Whr/kg or 80Whr for the Nickel Metal Hydrate (NiMH) batteries which surfaced later in the late 20th century. Comparing this with that of gasoline, the Metal Hydrate batteries were still 150x worse.
To get a better glimpse at the issue at hand, imagine you needed 8kg of gasoline to travel a distance of 500km, that would mean you would need an equivalent in Lead-Acid terms (10 Whr/kg) approximately 10000kg more to provide the same amount of energy gasoline would have provided. This means that to travel a distance of 500km you would need to carry approximately 2 Asian-Elephant along with you on your journey (LOl.. An Asian-elephant weighs roughly 5400kg each). Or considering this in NiMH terms, you would need to carry about 1200 kg more to provide the same energy 8kg of gasoline would provide, that is like carrying an average Black Rhinoceros along with you. Imagine the horror, having to drive with so much weight, for this same reason the EVs were limited to the urban areas. No wonder EVs declined over the years, why carry an Elephant with you when you had better options like the ICE cars.
EVs - Just Batteries?
Most atimes when we think of EVs, what comes to mind is the rechargable battery type EVs or as they are better known Fully Electric Vehicles (FEVs), that is, the type you charge and can recharge, they use electric engines (electric motors) and give out 0% emission of CO2, but the thing is that is only half the truth. Numerous types of electric vehicles have evolved in the last century and are not limited to the FEVs, some of the other types of EVs that exist include: the Hybid Electric Vehicles (HEVs),the PlugIn Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), and the Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs).
The HEVs as the name implies are a hybrid form of the ICE vehicles and the FEVs. The HEVs have both the ICE drivetrain and the Electric drivetrain or in the laymens term, they have both the heat engine and the electric motor. They use gasoline to run the heat engine and hence turns the crankshaft which turns the tyres, and also batteries to run the electric motor which also turns the tyres. But one thing to note is that the HEVs are more of heat than electric, as the electric motor only runs for a limited period, this is because, heat engines are less effecient and burns the same amount of energy on the move as it does while on a "hold-up" and this is where the electric engine (motor) comes in. During the time of low efficiency such as in a "hold-up" the car switches to the electric engine (motor) so as to improve efficiency and reduce emissions of CO2.
This switching reduces emission of CO2 by 10 - 50% (source). The batteries off the HEVs are charged when the car breaks by a process known as regenerative breaking - by converting the kinetic energy or momentum of the car to valuable electric energy which can be stored as against conventional breaking. Whereas in PHEVs the electric engine is independent of the heat engine and the batteries can be charged using a charger the conventional way.
One other type of EVs is the Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs). The FCEVs basically uses hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity that runs the electric motor. This is achieved by the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen fuel with oxygen to generate electricity. How is this different from a battery, well, because they require a continuos source of fuel and oxygen to sustain or maintain the chemical reaction, whereas a battery provides its energy from the chemical already present in a battery. The good news is that you can not run dry as the hydrogen fuel tank can be refilled in a "hydrogen station" like the conventional cars and just like gasoline you can store them.
Looking at the vehicle, the FCEVs offer 0% CO2 emission, as the by-product from converting hydrogen gas to electricity is heat and water, but that doesn't necesarilly mean that hygrogen fuel cell are pollution free as the method involved in the production of the hydrogen involves the release of green house gases. But comparing the emission of FCEVs to those of the conventional cars, we see that they cut emissions by over 30%(source)
By taking another look at EVs in general we see hat they are not actually new technology as we are meant to believe but have been in existence since the 19th century, though, not very effecient as their modern models. We also see that EVs are not limited to full electric vehicles, that is, EVs that use batteries alone but may include, hybrid EVS, plug-In hybrid EVs, and even Fuel Cell EVs.
Thanks for Reading
- Wiki - History of the electric vehicle
- How many kWh can you get from burning 1 litre of gasoline?
- Fuel Cell Vehicle
- Different type of electric vehicles
- How Do Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Work?
- Wiki - Fuel Cell
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