The Impact of Electric Cars

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The Automotive Industry is currently going through the most revolutionary change since the invention of the automobile itself. The fear of global warming, among other worries, is the prominent reason for the move toward electric vehicles. While the true impact electric vehicles will have on society is simply unknown, switching to electric vehicles plays a vital part in addressing global warming fears. Electric vehicles will affect more than just the environment, but with such a hazy future ahead, one can only guess, how electric vehicles will impact our world.

What is an Electric Car?

  • Before determining the impact of electric cars, it's important to know what an electric car is.

    How the electric motor works is basically the same as it would work in something like a pencil sharpener. In essence, the car houses batteries, formally lead-acid batteries back in the 1990s but now lithium batteries like those used in a laptop computer.

    What essentially happens is the lithium batteries supply an electric potential difference or, as it is most commonly known, a voltage to the circuit. This voltage is what powers the circuit. Think of it as the pump in a water pipe. The battery's voltage allows for the flow of current in a circuit in the same way a water pump allows for the flow of water through a pipe. The current flowing through wires causes a magnetic field just like you would get from a normal permanent magnet. The wires in the circuit are wrapped many times over in a cylinder shape so they will create a circular magnetic field. Once current is flowing through the wires, if other Magnets are placed close enough to the circuit and inside the magnetic field, they will begin to turn in a circular motion called torque.

    This torque is the force that drives the transmission and, in the end, turns the wheels. Electric cars typically come with either a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or, as with the new Tesla Roadster, a simple one-speed gear box.

    In mechanical terms, electric cars are much simpler and operate much differently than gasoline cars. Electric cars have no exhaust, are virtually silent and for all those performance nuts out there, they deliver maximum torque from zero revs. This technology has come a long way since its invention as well. Anyone familiar with the new Tesla Roadster will tell you not only about its very respectable range and beautiful sports car looks but also its incredible supercar performance.

Pros of Owning an Electric Car

  • Electric cars:

    Are much easier, cheaper and cleaner to service and do maintenance on than gasoline engines.

    Are much cheaper to charge with electricity than fill with gasoline, and the possibility of home-charging stations could be very convenient.

    Likely will loosen oil companies' grip and the United States' dependence on foreign oil.

    Have motors that are well suited for both city and highway driving by being both smooth and having a high torque output.

    Are much cleaner, cheaper and easier to recycle than gasoline cars.

    The biggest benefit, though is that electric cars emit no exhaust, so they produce no greenhouse gases that harm the environment and contribute to global warming.

Cons of Electric Cars

  • Electric Cars are not without their faults. However most faults have to do with changing it from a science experiment into an everyday easy-to-live with automobile.
    Electric cars:

    Will be difficult to charge. Putting charging stations in everyone's home will be quite difficult especially for those who live in the city and may park three blocks away from where they live.

    Charging in a reasonable amount of time also could be problematic. The goal would be to charge in the same time it takes to fill a car with gasoline.

    Have a shorter range. The range, although it has improved immensely recently, still needs to grow to become a true alternative to gasoline cars.

    Might be hard to keep charged. Any electrically run gadget from the radio to heated seats directly kills the battery life and range of the vehicle.

    Are quiet, which could be quite dangerous to pedestrians in a noisy city or in a neighborhood full of children. Possible solutions have been the proposal to have car ringtones, so in addition to a police siren or the ice-cream van's tunes we may soon hear John Mayer songs or techno jingle bells.

    Might mean the death of sports and racing cars.

    Could mean the end to the soul, character and personality of cars, all things that set them apart from other machines.

The History of Electric Cars

  • In the 1990s, General Motors first introduced an electric car to the public. It came in the form of the Saturn EV1 and despite using old lead acid batteries to power it, was actually faster than many of its gasoline-powered competitors.

    The EV1 was never technically sold to anyone as a car and was only available for lease. Despite the crude interior and long charge times, the EV1 was very successful on a small-scale and was supposed to be a look forward into the future for the automotive industry.

    The EV1 was sadly and, under much controversy and protest, taken out of production with the only remaining models stripped mechanically on display in museums. What the EV1 demonstrated, though, was that an electric car was possible and was just as capable as a gasoline car even with 10-year-old technology.

What Does this Mean for the Future?

  • With the technology now nearing very user-friendly stages, does this then mean the death of the gasoline-powered engine as our main source of transportation? And for all the gear heads out there, doe it also mean the death of modern day sports car?

    Most car enthusiasts have probably seen the Tesla and maybe some have seen the new Green GT, a fully electric race car that is supposed to compete in the Le Mans 24-hour race in a few years. But as many will tell you, there’s just something about a gas-powered car that you can’t replicate with an electric motor.

    Maybe to discover what’s next and what to expect in the next few years, one should look backward at what the gas-powered engine replaced.

    In the late 1800s and early 1900s, horses were used for anything from delivery vans, stagecoaches, and even hauling water tanks to fires. But imagine horses in a city, the manure across the streets, the feed needed to keep horses alive, the horrible life they had hauling, being whipped so they would keep going. Then when Henry Ford finally made an affordable car and the car saved the horse. The horse could finally be used recreationally.

    Nowadays, horseback riding is a huge sport. Events such as the Kentucky Derby still have a profound effect on our society and have huge amounts of money involved. Although no longer used strictly for transportation anymore, the horse has far from faded in the background.

    This might just be a foreshadowing for what will happen to gas-powered cars. During the week, you go to work and the shops, drop the kids off at school and park your electric car in the car park. Then finally, when the time is right and the mood strikes you, you go for a blast in your beloved old girl and no longer have to worry that she’ll be gone someday.

References

  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Steve Jurvetson Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of ? Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Steve Arnold
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