One of man’s greatest needs is energy.
Advancements in civilization has increased the need for energy.
Now this is where the problems lie; majority of our energy sources, which are fossil fuels, are harming the environment, emitting greenhouse gases that are causing temperatures to rise and impact the climate, putting the survival of other species at great risk and impacting millions of livelihoods.
Moreover, rapid increase in human population means that we are destroying natural habitat meant for other animals to create space for ourselves(urbanisation).
By the fact that we are intruding spaces we are not supposed to, we interact with other species, which may act as carriers for dangerous pathogens.
Perhaps this is how the coronavirus pandemic came about.
At this point maybe I’m sounding like a conspiracy theorist and diverting from the topic.
But the development of clean energy sources might just be the thing which ensures our survival.
Most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from transport means because almost all of them utilise the combustion of fossil fuels to provide them with the energy required to perform their tasks.
Most transport traffic takes place on land, and therefore this necessitates the need to develop vehicle engines which do not run on fossil fuels.
There is a reason why vehicles powered by internal combustion engines are so popular today.
As you might know, the first vehicles were designed to run using electric motors as engines. However, technology during those days, as far as EVs are concerned, was not as advanced as witnessed today.
The Machine Age
The story of the internal combustion vehicle is inextricably linked to the story of oil itself, but the internal combustion engine’s rise in popularity was due more to the great economic advantage of oil rather than any technical advantage of the internal combustion engine (ICE).
Rapid innovations in the design and operation of the ICEs happened, thanks to the likes of Benz, Daimler, Peugeot et al. More oil fields were discovered, and innovations in the processes of mining, distillation and transportation of crude oil made the price of oil products very cheap.
The fate of WW2 was determined by this commodity.
The allied powers had their machinery operate much effectively because they had access to more oil fields and refineries, while the Germans and the Japanese, despite having superior military tactics (you might have heard of the blitzkrieg), lost because their machinery (especially tanks) were not mobile enough.
The victory of the allied powers left an interesting lesson; whoever controlled the flow of more oil won the war and had more influence.
Oil products became glorified because of this, and corporations raked in handsome profits.
But there was a problem (an economical one).
See, majority of the oil reserves in the world is found in the OPEC states. Political events in the 1970s in the middle east meant that prices of crude oil shot up, due to acute shortage of fuel in countries that depended on the commodity (as witnessed in the US first oil shock of 1973).
More political events and major world events meant that the prices of oil were volatile, and they are still so to date. Besides, the public was becoming more aware of the environmental damage ICEs were causing (thanks to innovation in communication technology post 1950s).
I hope that at this point, you understand the fact that economic and environmental factors have prompted the research and development of vehicles that do not use petroleum products, or use very minimal fossil fuels.
This is where electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell engine vehicles come into the picture.
From a personal point of view, these are the future of transportation.
Going to details about each type of vehicle aforementioned is beyond the scope of this article (you will have to forgive me for that). So, allow me to just focus on one; the EV (electric vehicle).
The Digital Age
There is a strong reason why EVs are generating a lot of hype.
Obviously, they have almost zero emissions hence good for the environment.
But there is a lot more to that.
First, they are very efficient, greatly aided by the high efficiency of the ubiquitous electric motor. 75% of power produced by the motor reaches the wheels, whereas it is only 20% for ICEs.
This means EVs are amazingly economical. Credible sources inform me that driving an EV is an experience unlike no other.
The quietness in operation and smoothness in acceleration is astounding.
A lot of research is being done on EV technology.
I mean a lot,
Thanks to today’s technological advancements, and also regulations enforced by the government and states (for example the US Clean Air Act of 1990).
Also, some governments, such as the state of California, offered financial incentives in purchase of EVs, hence lowering their price.
Some common myths on EVs do exist.
One of them is that electric vehicles cannot go fast enough.
Well, this is probably true for the vehicles exceeding 3 tons and carry many batteries.
However, today’s EVs match their ICE counterparts very well in terms of speed, and they accelerate faster and smoother (especially the saloon cars and hatchbacks).
Statistics indicate that nearly 85% of daily commuters travel less than 120 kilometres a day.
This is well and comfortably within the range of today’s EVs.
For those who are asking what of long-range distance, the Tesla Model S Long Range Performance, produced by Tesla Motors, could run for up to 600.2 km on a single charge.
The Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle has a range of 416.82km .So there you have it; EVs can cover almost every range people do travel. https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/every-electric-car-ev-range-audi-chevy-tesla
Another myth is that they are not convenient.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
As long as you have electricity, you are good to go.
I know someone would ask “what if the vehicle runs out of power on a highway in the middle of nowhere?”.
Well, I would do the same thing if my car ran out of fuel in the same situation – call a tow truck.
In fact, when solar technology is integrated into the EV, combined with the electric motor regenerative braking, it is more likely that a normal ICE vehicle would stall on the highway because of running out of fuel than an EV.
But why aren’t you seeing many EVs around? Allow me to explain in my next article!