The Rise of the Electric Car


The first small-scale electric car, invented in the mid-19th century by professor Sibrandus Stratingh of Groningen, ran on non-rechargeable primary cells. It looked starkly different than what is seen today as it was fit with the stylistic and technological choices of the era. The advent of this vehicle was followed by a boom period in the 1890's to 1900's that led to the introduction and use of the electric taxi. Initially, electric city cars gained notoriety among the wealthy mainly due to the cars’ lesser vibration, smell, and noise when compared to gasoline-fueled cars. Afterwards, however, electric cars experienced a sharp decline in use. The establishment of long distance roads and the worldwide discovery of large petroleum reserves led to a market explosion of gasoline cars that would persist until today. But with a modern shortage of fossil fuels and an increase in environment concerns, car manufacturers are being driven to design affordable and efficient eco-friendly cars. Perhaps it is time for the electric car to regain the market. [1]

Humble beginnings.

The crux of the electric car is its unique battery (with lithium ion batteries being most common) that drives the electric motor, ultimately allowing for the vehicle to move. Additionally, the accelerator pedal converts the electric signals to the motor controller, with the signal corresponding to the amount of pedal is pressed.[2] The motor controller will transmit the battery voltage to the actual motor depending on the input signal. The battery packs power all the devices in the car just like the gas tank would in a gasoline car.[3] There are lots of advantages of electric cars. A 2018 study from Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that operating electric cars cost less than half of the price of driving gasoline cars. The cost of operate an electric car in US is $485 per year, which is much lower than gasoline-powered vehicles that cost $1117 per year.[4] The electric power source also brings convenience to daily life. Electric car owners do not need to go to the gas station to refuel; they can just plug in their car at its carport. Furthermore, electric cars produce much less CO2 emission than gas cars, with some models even producing zero CO2 emission. Additionally, electric motors can achieve higher energy conversion. The ‘tank-to-wheels’ efficiency is about a factor of 3 higher than internal combustion engine vehicles.[5] Since electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, there are problems that need to be tackled. The lithium battery system that powers many of the cars requires a large amount of the rare metal lithium (Li); however, there is a limited amount of lithium on Earth. Therefore, it is important to find a economically-friendly and abundant metal as a viable replacement. With the increase in electric car production, recycling batteries is also a large concern. Today, electric transportation labs and researchers from around the world are aiming to solve these problems. Every year leads to the development of increasingly better-performing electric vehicles. In the future, electric cars hold the potential to exponentially gain in popularity and overtake gas-fueled cars as the popular preferred mode of transportation.[6] [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_fuel_vehicle [2]https://www.ebig.org/basic-engine-principle-electric-cars/ [3]http://www.electricvehiclesmalta.eu/e-driving/how-do-electric-vehicles-work [4]https://www.energysage.com/electric-vehicles/costs-and-benefits-evs/evs-vs-fossil-fuel-vehicles/ [5]https://cleantechnica.com/2012/04/18/electric-vehicles-greenhouse-gas-emissions-save-money/ [6]https://www.autoevolution.com/news/six-problems-with-electric-cars-that-nobody-talks-about-112221.html

Jin Xu is a graduate student at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken. He can be contacted at jinxu@smilesforlearning.org.

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