alternative fuels

As humans continually exploit the earth for their own conveniences they become increasingly aware of the damage they cause. In the last 30 years the population has begun to notice just how serious the problem is and as a result great efforts have been put into amending the environment from our technological follies. Since the use of fossil fuels causes 70% of the earth’s air pollution it’s only logical that the human race must restrict the use of oil (Exploring Alternative Fuels) One of the main reason that fossil fuels are extracted from the earth is to provide oil for the propulsion of transportation vehicles. Scientist and researchers realized that oil is unnecessary to power ground transportation vehicles such as cars and trucks. In fact electricity is just as effective for propelling vehicles as gasoline is. Due to “the major concern of air quality, energy diversity, and the innovations of the automobile industry” electric vehicles began to be researched and produced (Electric Vehicle Report). Electric vehicles are now becoming the future of the transportation because they secure a long-term answer to the problem of fueling and they greatly reduce the earth’s air pollution. The most viable options to replacing gas-powered vehicles are the three different forms of electric powered automobiles; hybrid, solar and fuel cell. Although electric vehicles were not recently invented most of their development has occurred in the last 15 years and with the application of modern technologies, developers have enabled electric vehicles to be powerful and cost efficient, without causing harm to the environment (Information on Electric Cars). Electric vehicles have had a relatively long history compared to most transportation devices. The first known electric automobile was a small model built by Professor Strtingh in 1835 in the Duct City of Groningen. This car, however, was extremely impractical because of its expense and the short life of the battery. The first practical electric vehicle to be built was a small automobile that was produced in the United States by Thomas Davenport. Thomas made great improvements to his electric automobile, reducing its cost, and implicating a battery with a longer life span and greater power. Even with these improvements Davenport’s electric automobile was not popular because he was forced to use non-rechargeable batteries in his vehicle. It seemed that the public would never use electric vehicles because of their batteries, but Frenchmen Gaston Plante change this notion by inventing the rechargeable storage battery in 1865 (Electric Cars). The first electric automobile to really grab the world’s attention was La Jamais Contente’s racecar. It was produced in 1899 in Belgium and it was designed for speed. The car broke the world land speed record in France with driver Camille Jenatzy in 1899, with a speed of over 62 miles per hour. After the invention and production of the gasoline powered automobile, electric cars gained little attention until the 1980’s. (Electric Vehicle Report) In the 1900’s electric cars were put to use in other ways than mass transit. They were used as an inexpensive way to travel short distances across factories, golf courses and campuses (Advocating the Use of E.V.’s). It was not long until people began to see the potential of electric vehicles. In the early 1980’s research teams were developed, sponsored by major automobile companies, to reinvent the electric vehicle by taking advantage of new technological advancements in batteries, system integration and aerodynamics. Soon word broke out that the government was going to mandate energy diversity and air quality and “many of the leading automobile companies, electric utility companies and the academic community began to do researching, testing and developing electric powered vehicles”(Electric Vehicle Report). Around 1990 several California cities began to use electricity to power buses, streetcars and mass transit vehicles to help lower their high level of air pollution. In 1992, Congress approved and President Bush signed the National Emergency Policy Act, which stated that the consumption of petroleum in the U.S. will be reduced by ten percent by the year 2000 and thirty percent by the year 2030. Since this announcement even more companies and research teams have jumped on the electric vehicle production wagon. Automobile manufacturer giants such as Honda, GM and Chrysler put millions of dollars into research teams so that electric cars would be available to the public as early as 1996. Also, since the National Emergency Policy Act was passed electric vehicles have been promoted greatly all over the country and the Government even offers tax breaks for owners of electric vehicles. (Electric Vehicle Report) * see #1 appendix for time line One of the main reasons why electric vehicles are being developed is to help maintain a clean and safe environment. Since transportation, because of the massive amounts of oil used, is the single biggest air polluting industry in the world there is a great need to create a vehicle that does not rely on oil. Electric vehicles seem to be the best answer to this problem. Electric vehicles, on average, are 98% cleaner than combustion vehicles as far as air pollution goes. That means that if electric vehicles were to replace traditional automobiles, air pollution could be reduce by up to 35% each year. Also, the emissions from internal combustion automobiles have lead to the depletion of the ozone, which “could increase the amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth, where it damages crops and plants and can lead to skin cancer”. (Air Pollution) The usage of oil can also bring great harm to the world economic system and replacing gasoline fueled cars with electric vehicles would greatly reduce the horrible economic impact that oil will eventually bring to the globe. In as little as 5 years oil shortages could cause a major oil shock where the price oil per barrel could triple. To most people this evidence is hard to believe. The average consumer thinks that because the price of oil is so low now it will stay that way and the depletion of our oil supply is light years away. This common notion is, however, false. “Within a few years the coming decline in oil production will have moved from the realm of specialist articles in scientific journals to mainstream common knowledge” says one geophysicist (Oil Shock Will be Felt Globally). With as little as a 5% shortage in oil production ” gasoline lines of the 1970’s could be brought back, but this time the oil shortage will be permanent”(Oil Shock Will be Felt Globally). Many geologists and geophysicists agree that global oil productions will peak in the year 2010 and only a small fraction of the oil produced today will be produced due to oil depletion in the year 2050. (Oil Market is Becoming Unstable) The inevitable oil shortage will effect the United States greatly. On the average Americans rely on foreign oil for 54.6% of their needs and the number is increasing with no end in site. When an oil shortage occurs foreign suppliers will have control over this major section of the US economy. US citizens will have to pay for the government’s lack of planning. If the United States did not rely on foreign oil the impact of its depletion would be minimal and one of the best ways to decrease dependence on foreign oil is to replace internal combustion automobiles with electric vehicles. (Oil Market is Becoming Unstable) The operation of an electric vehicle is very similar to that of a traditional combustion automobile. The ignition system that starts the vehicle works in the same way. A key is turned, or a code is entered into a numeric pad and the engine responsively begins to run. A gear shift box allows a person to put the vehicle in reverse or drive and with one’s foot off the brake the car will begin to move in a slow fashion, as does an internal combustion car. As pressure is applied to the “gas” pedal an electronic signal is sent to the electronic control module. The control module’s primary function is to direct the electronic signal commands of the gas pedal in such away that the torque, created by the engine, is applied to the wheels proportionally to the degree to which the acceleration is depressed. (Information on Electric Cars) The general function of an electric automobile is also similar to that of an internal combustion automobile. Electric automobiles will be able to have 2 and 4 door options, large trunk space and even sunroofs. It is a common misconception that electric cars will be an odd or ugly shape. This preconceived notion is, however, untrue. Electric vehicles, more often than not, resemble the same type of bodies as traditional gasoline powered automobiles. (Electric Vehicles as a Viable Means of Transportation) Although most of the general functions of electric vehicles are very similar to that of internal combustion vehicles, dissimilarities can also be found. One major difference between gas-powered vehicles and electric vehicles is their acceleration. On most traditional automobiles the response of the “gas” pedal is generally slow. It takes a couple hundred feet if not more to achieve the speed desired after one presses down the acceleration pedal. However, this is untrue for an electric vehicle. The response of the acceleration system is much greater than that of a traditional automobile because the power/torque curve for electric motors is much broader than that of an internal combustion engine. This allows for a fast and agile start. (Creation of Electric Vehicles) Another dissimilarity that exists between traditional combustion automobiles and electric vehicles is that electric vehicles use a regenerative braking system. When the brake is applied in a regenerative breaking system the kinetic energy of the vehicle is captured and channeled through the electronic control module and then to the battery pack, resulting in an efficient stop and replenished energy for the battery. (Electric Vehicle Report) The materials used in the production of electric vehicles are also similar to those used in the production of internal combustion automobiles. Almost all the raw materials used are exactly the same as combustion cars. Plastics, steel and composite are common materials found in both combustion vehicles and electric vehicles. Most manufactures of any type of vehicle try to use the least amount of materials to reduce the vehicle’s weight, but lighter materials, or lesser amounts of materials are often used in electric cars because their efficiency depends on their lightweight. (Creation of Electric Vehicles) There are three main types of batteries used in the production of electric vehicles including lead-acid, nickel metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries. The invention of the lead-acid battery predates the invention of the automobile itself. Although earlier versions of the lead-acid battery were crude in that they were excessively heavy, their contents would spill with the slightest damage to the case and they often released hydrogen gas. With new technology the lead-acid battery has become the safest and most efficient battery. The internal container of the battery has been effectively sealed and the electrolytes have been immobilized. This eliminates any chance of pollution through either spillage or emissions. The lead-acid battery is the battery that is most likely to be used in the initial fleets of electric vehicles. Currently, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors are using lead-acid batteries in their prototype electric vehicles and their retail electric vehicles. (Creation of Electric Vehicles) Lead-acid batteries are the same kind of batteries that are being used in combustion vehicles resulting in a fully established lead-acid battery infrastructure. The manufacturing, distributing, service and recycling infrastructures are already in working order so this large industry will not be disturbed by the switch to electric vehicles and the purchasing and service of lead-acid batteries will be readily available for electric cars even in their first years of production. (Creation of Electric Vehicles) Nickel metal hydride batteries are also being developed for use in electric vehicles. The nickel metal hydride battery has been available for around ten years. Most researchers agree that the nickel metal hydride battery has a higher performance and a longer life cycle than any other battery available today. The hydrogen produced in normal usage of the battery is stored in the metal hydride in a solid hydride phase without releasing any gas. The nickel metal hydride can run in varying temperatures. Studies have proved that neither extreme low or extreme high temperatures significantly affect the performance of the battery. Honda and Toyota are currently using the nickel metal hydride battery to test and produce electric vehicles. (Creation of Electric Vehicles) New technologies are being applied to nickel metal hydride batteries all the time. A newer feature of this type of batteries is the oxygen off-gassing valve. When a nickel metal hydride battery is being charged oxygen is created. During a low rate charging session a nickel metal hydride battery can keep up with the oxygen creation by recombining it into the battery. However, at a high recharging rate this type of battery can not keep up with the production of oxygen by recombination and pressure builds up inside the battery. A valve system has been introduced to solve this problem. When oxygen pressure begins to build up the valve opens and releases only oxygen, reliving the pressure with out unleashing any pollutants into the air. (Electric Vehicle Report) The last type of battery that is being developed for use in electric vehicles is the lithium-ion battery. Lithium, the prime material in lithium-ion batteries, has the lowest atomic weight with the highest potential for a negative charge. This means that the lithium-ion battery has the greatest potential for attaining a new technological break through that will allow electric vehicles the greatest acceleration and range. However, as of now the potential of this battery is still has not been fully tapped because air and most other liquid electrolytes are highly reactive with lithium, meaning that a chemical reaction would take place and destroy the battery and possible the vehicle as well. The lithium-ion battery can be charged and discharged faster than the lead acid battery or the nickel metal hydride battery, due to the quick reversibility of the lithium ion. In addition, lithium-ion batteries are around 40% smaller and weigh half as much as lead-acid batteries and nickel metal hydride batteries. Although the lithium-ion battery is lighter and smaller than other batteries it can store over twice as much energy. This means that twice the amount of lithium-ion batteries can be placed in an electric vehicle, doubling its power with out disturbing the vehicle’s lightweight. (Electric Vehicle Report) Contributing to the outstanding performance of the battery, the lithium-ion battery also has a huge potential for long life. Also the lithium-ion promises to be produced inexpensively, especially if the cobalt used in the process is replaced with manganese. Currently Nissan is the only major automobile company to incorporate the use of lithium-ion batteries in its vehicles. Nissan most likely hopes to fully tap the lithium-ion battery’s potential in the next few years. (Creation of Electric Vehicles) Since the batteries of electric vehicles must constantly be charged, recharging stations, private and public, must be established. An electric vehicle is charged by having a charging station convert a constant flow of voltage into a type of current compatible with the electric vehicle battery pack. The on board computer in the electric vehicle communicates with the charging station to see how much electricity is needed to charge the battery and to monitor the electricity’s flow. This prevents battery damage due to over charging. Passing an electrical current through the battery to reform its active materials to their high-energy state completes the charge. This process is exactly the reverse of the discharge process, forcing the chemical reaction to go backwards. (Electric Cars) There are different levels at which one can charge an electric vehicle. Level one charging consists of using a flow of electricity equal to 120 volts. Level one charging generally takes around 10 – 15 hours. Level two charging uses 240 volts to charge an electric vehicle and it charges a battery at an average of 3-8 hours depending on the battery type and size. Any type of charging that uses above 240 volts is known as level three charging and the time limits vary greatly. (Electric Cars) A new level three station developed by HECO (Hawaiian Electric Company) can charge an electric vehicle in around nine minutes. Twenty of these stations are currently being placed in Honolulu in hopes that tourist will rent electric vehicles to drive and see how wonderful they are, spreading the idea all over the world. At these HECO stations an express fill up, nine minutes, will cost around two dollars and an over night recharging session will cost about 75 cents. The savings over gasoline are up to 400%. (Advocating Commercial Use of E.V.’s) A prototype charging station that HECO is experimenting with charged a lead-acid that powered an electric vehicle to travel over 1000 miles on a single charge. With this type of breakthrough technology it won’t be long before the electric vehicle industry takes over the internal combustion automobile industry. (Advocating Commercial Use of E.V.’s) There are two types of charging methods for electric vehicles, constant voltage and constant current. A constant voltage charge is a powerful charge, usually a level three charge. A constant current charge is slow charge and it is often referred to as a trickle charge. A constant current charge is usually a level 1 or 2 charge. Most charging stations use a combination of the two methods. The constant voltage charge comes first, recharging nearly all of the battery. Then the rest of the battery is recharged with a constant current slowly topping off the battery to prevent from overcharging and any off-gassing (the release of gas into the atmosphere) of hydrogen or oxygen from the electrolyte. (Electric Vehicle Report) Safety is an important factor to consider when planning the recharging infrastructure for electric vehicles. All charging equipment must have ground-fair interrupter devices for personal protection from shock. A de-energized interlock system will also prevent shock. A non-energized object will remain between the charger and the electric vehicle until the charger plug is correctly fasten to the electric vehicle. Only then will the non-energized object be removed so that the flow of energy can begin. (Electric Vehicle Report) Another safety feature that will be standard on all charging stations is the ventilation interlock system. This system will ventilate the battery from any build of gas rather it be hydrogen or oxygen. If the battery already has a ventilation system (i.e. the nickel metal hydride battery) the chargers ventilation system will disable. Also, if any off gassing is detected by the charger, charging will immediately stop until the problem is fixed. (Information on Electric Cars) Although hundreds of concept and experimental electric vehicles exist, only four types dominate the industry, including hybrid, fuel cell and solar. The most popular electric vehicle being built today is the hybrid electric vehicle. In a hybrid electric vehicle two configurations can exist, either a series configuration or a parallel configuration. In a series configuration an internal combustion engine is used to charge an electric storage device which runs a motor. The rest of the vehicle is powered only from the electric motor. In a parallel configuration an internal combustion engine is used to help give the car more power when it is needed. The combustion engine is only used during accelerations and times when more power is need, like climbing a steep hill. Otherwise the vehicle is powered on the electric engine. (Electric Vehicle Report) The hybrid electric vehicle uses very little liquid fuel making it economical as well as environmentally sound. It can be charged with most standard electric vehicle charging stations and requires a small amount of gasoline to run. Although the a hybrid electric vehicle is superior in many ways to other forms of electric vehicles it has a high productions cost, making it the most expensive out of the four types of electric vehicles. One model that is currently available to the public is the Toyota Prius that is said to be a four door highly efficient automobile. (Electric Vehicle Report) Fuel cell electric vehicles have a great potential for being the future of the electric car. This type of electric vehicle does not rely on charging stations to generate its electricity. Instead it gains energy from a chemical reaction that is created when hydrogen and oxygen are combined in a process similar to cold fusion. Water vapor is the only byproduct. As of now these cells are used only in space shuttles, for they are far too bulky and costly to be practically used in automobiles. (Electric Vehicle Report) A fuel cell known as the PEM fuel cell (proton exchange membrane) had the greatest potential for being used in automobiles. It is light and cost efficient, but it has not been developed enough to be put into public use. (Exploring Alternative Fuels) Solar powered electric vehicles are also a viable option for replacing internal combustion vehicles. In a solar power vehicle energy from the sun is gathered with photovoltaic cells. The energy is then converted into electric energy and used to power a motor and no byproducts are produced. Although this seems like the answer to all of earth’s transportation problems, solar powered electric vehicles are impractical. To make a solar powered electric vehicle run efficiently it must carry hundred of photovoltaic cells on a large flat surface, one that is to large to be placed on automobiles. Also, solar cars have to be extremely lightweight because of the low amount of energy used to run their engines. This means that a maximum of two people can be carried in a solar car in order for it to run properly. (Renewable Fuel) Electric vehicles have proven to be a powerful, reliable and cost efficient mode of transportation. They require little or no liquid fuel, such as gasoline, to operate and most do not project emissions that are harmful to the earth’s atmosphere. In addition, electric vehicles would provide an answer to the global economic problem of oil depletion. Considering these facts and all the global problems occurring as a result of dependence on oil, electric vehicles are far superior for mass transit purposes than internal combustion vehicles. Appendix #1 The following is a list of events that are important in the progress of electric vehicles, summarizing their history. 1831 – Theory on Electro Magnetism is developed. 1859 — Gaston Plante invents the rechargeable lead acid battery. 1880 – Edison committed to direct current electricity. 1881 – Electric transportation’s first appearance in France. 1889 – Westinghouse committed to alternating current. 1890 – Andrew Riker becomes the first American to construct an electric vehicle. 1891 – William Marrison builds the first four wheeled electric vehicle. 1896 – An electric car won first place in the Providence Horse-less Carriage race. 1899 – La Jamais Contente sets the land speed record at 62 mph in France with an electric vehicle. 1900 – Rotary converters are available with out being custom built. 1900 – Electric cars could be charged with a 500 watt power plant. 1900 – A commercial charging hydrant is developed. 1900 – An electric car travels 165 miles on a single charge. 1901 – Batteries could be charged with a plug installed on the vehicle. 1901 – American automobile record set at 57.1 mph (gas powered). 1901 – At least nine improved lead-acid batteries become available. 1901 – The Electric Company started selling gasoline powered cars. 1902 – Introduction of the torpedo body. 1903 – Average cost of electricity is 23 cents per kWh. 1905 – Edison continues development on the nickel-iron battery. 1911 – Electric Vehicle Association of America was founded. 1913 – Electricity drops to 7 cents per kWh and gasoline is sold at 24 cents a gallon. 1955 – First predictions that raw materials will run out. 1960 – Air pollution and ecology are discovered provoking major concerns. 1979 – Research teams begin to reinvent electric vehicles. 1990 – Automobile companies began to seriously try to put EVS into production. 1992 – The National Energy Policy Act is passed by congress. 1998 – Chrysler makes an E. Minivan series. 1998 – Honda produces the E.V. Plus. 1998 – GM’s EV series is available to the public. (Electric Vehicle Report) Bibliography “Advances in the Commercialization of Electric Vehicles”. E.V.A. of America. Online. AOL. 13 Dec. 1998. “Advocating the Use of E.V.S.”. San Diego County Electric Vehicle Consortium. Online. AOL. 13 Dec. 1998. “Air Pollution”. Excite Reference. Online. AOL. 27 Jan. 1999. “Alternative Propulsion”. Alternative Methods of Propulsions. Online. AOL. 13 Dec. 1998. “Creating Public Awareness of E.V. Performance”. National Electric Drag Racing Association. Online. AOL. 13 Dec. 1998. “Creation of Electric Vehicles”. SF Peninsula Chapter of the E.A.A. online. AOL. 5 Dec. 1998. “Electric Cars in Phoenix”. Phoenix Chapter Electric Auto Association. Online. AOL. 5 Dec. 1998. “Electric Cars”. Electric Vehicle Homepage. Online. AOL. 27 Jan. 1999. “Electric Cart Races for High Schools”. National Electric Cart Association. Online. 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