How feasible are Electric Vehicles for the future?

Once again we find ourselves debating how electric vehicles (EV) can be a main source of transportation in the world. The events putting us on that course have been rather tortuous.  In 1973 the world, in particular the U.S., was jolted into the realization that its major supply of petroleum could be cut off, leaving dozens of millions of vehicles idle on its roads. As the Arab oil embargo through the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) dragged on, the lines at gas pumps grew longer until 17 March 1974 it ended [1]. At that time, there was much discussion about alternative renewable energy, not only as a source of vehicle fuel but for power production all across the infrastructure. There were major efforts to bring forth solar and wind, in particular, but other forms of energy production using geothermal, hydroelectric, and even very novel ideas like fuel cells. Not only was there a heightened awareness of the fragility of petroleum supply but there were rising concerns about the environment, in particular, pollution, land spoilage, and global warming. The global warming issue has been around ever since the term was coined 8 August 1975 in a science paper by Wally Broecker in Science entitled “Are we on the brink of a pronounced global warming? [2]”. As the embargo crisis receded, so did all the ideas of the need to conserve petroleum in the collective social memory. Thirty years down the road, we face not so much the threat of an embargo, but peak oil, where it has been found that we may have passed a point where oil consumption surpasses the discovery of new sources [3]. Too, there are greater environmental issues, made prominent after the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989 and more recently with the disastrous British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon ”oil gusher” incident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Middle Eastern wars over oil, highlighted the cost of extracting this fuel. As motor vehicles consume the greater part of petroleum in the world, it stood to reason that there would be a search for alternative sources of power, in light of the newly perceived need to address the petroleum issue. Numerous ideas have arisen over the past decade about how to fuel vehicles, some of those innovations involving fuel cells (refined development occurring as a result of space programs), natural gas, and electric. Here, we focus on electric powered vehicles, their problems and prospects [4].

Using electricity to drive cars is not a new idea, it originating as far back as 1828, when Ányos Jedlik, a Hungarian inventor of a motor created a model of a vehicle powered by it.  A primitive electric carriage was made in the latter 1830s by Scottish inventor Robert Anderson, but it took the development of rechargeable batteries to bring forth EVs in Europe, staring in the mid 1800s. The U.S. had to wait for its electric cars until William Morrison built a six passenger car in 1890. From that point onward electric cars became popular, with Anthony Electric,  Baker, Columbia, Anderson, Edison, and Studebaker, among others being favorite brands.

Electric vehicle model by Ányos Jedlik [5]

In 1900, more cars on the road were electric than steam or gasoline. However, they were for localized use only, as there were no recharge stations out in rural areas. In addition, because the batteries were lead-acid, the range was severely limited, and the lifespan, because of the numerous recharges required, was not that long. Improvements in the internal combustion engine (ICE) and mass production by Henry Ford’s automobile plants to drive down costs pretty much demolished the electric car market.

German electric car, 1904, with a chauffeur on top [6]

Today, people are back on track in attempting to further the technology of EVs. Mostly everyone is aware of the ubiquitous golf carts that pass by silently, and these have served well, but the scale them upward to road use has not been easy.

References (Subject is indicated by URL – accessed 14 October 2011)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis#Chronology
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming
[3] http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5247
[4] http://avt.inl.gov/pdf/fsev/history.pdf
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_electric_vehicle
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_electric_vehicle

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Posted on November 1, 2011, in Electric / Electronic. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Today, people are back on track in attempting to further the technology of EVs. Mostly everyone is aware of the ubiquitous golf carts that pass by silently, and these have served well, but the scale them upward to road use has not been easy.

  2. Hello there and thank you for your info – I have certainly picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise some technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the website many times previous to I could get it to load correctly.

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