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Hybrid and electric cars Essay

Several types of vehicles which use alternative sources of energy have already been developed. These are mainly aimed at controlling the levels of air pollution and to provide a cheaper means of technology, especially with the increasing oil prices. With today’s current economic situation, many money saving cars have hit the road, such as hybrids from Toyota and Honda. However, our society thinks that the hybrid or electric car is a recent advancement, when in fact there were actually more electrics than gas fueled cars on the road in the 1800s.

The aim of this research paper is to find out why the society is oblivious to this fact. The history of the electric car The history of the electric vehicle started from the first successful attempt to store electrical energy made by Alessandro Volta in Italy in 1800. The next event of major significance was in 1921, when Michael Faraday demonstrated that wire rod carrying electric current supplied by a Volta pile would rotate around a fixed magnet of one end and was unconstrained by allowing it to hang in a bath of mercury. He also showed that the magnet would rotate around the wire if the fixed and moving elements were reversed.

Furthermore, the direction of rotation was reversed if the polarity of the electric current was reversed. This was the principle of the electric motor. In 1832, an electric motor was operated by having a bar magnet mounted on a shaft rotating inside stationary coils of wire in which the electric current was successfully switched by contacts on the shaft. The first electric motor was first constructed in 1968, but it was not until 1973 that the first road vehicles were driven. Interest had also developed in competitions between internal combustion-engine vehicles to show which was superior in speed and reliability.

Leitman etal, pg 62-67) While all these developments in electric vehicles were going on, the gasoline fueled internal combustion engine vehicles were also being rapidly developed, so that by 1900, the market for automobiles was almost equally divided between the three contenders of steam, electricity and gasoline. Enthusiasm of the electric vehicle was strong at this time; primarily because of its ease of starting without tiresome need to hand crank the engine. The12 years from 1900 to 1912 was the golden age for electric vehicles, although gasoline-powered vehicles were developing rapidly over this period.

In 1903, there were more electric vehicles in London than these powered by the internal combustion engine, but this situation did not last for long. By 1909 when the model T was launched it was already clear that the race for personal transport had been won by internal combustion engine This did not stop the number of electric vehicles in use in the USA increasing to a peak of 30,0000 in 1912. However, by this date, there were 900,000 gasoline engine vehicles on the road in that country, and comparable numbers in Europe. Slowly, the electric car manufacturers went out of business, or started manufacturing gasoline powered vehicles.

Leitman etal, pg 62-67) Pollution in the modern era From the 1970s, the interest in electric cars began to appear again; air pollution caused by gasoline engines was beginning to be of concern and a number of small firms were set up to try and met the new demand of electric vehicles. The Ford Motor Company of Britain was asked to look at the possibility of designing a small electric car for urban use which was small enough to occupy minimum road and parking space, had high maneuverability, minimum pollution, was simple to operate and had low initial and running costs. Plant etal, pg 234)

The 1990 mandate At the beginning of the 1990s, the electric vehicle had already been improved. They became more marketable, and people preferred them more than the other vehicles. One of the reasons that people preferred to use these vehicles was the fact that they did not use fuel. It was also cheaper and easy to recharge them. These cars were more effective in the 1990s, when the concerns for the environment were on the rise. This forced most car manufacturing industries, being led by General Motors to start manufacturing the electrical vehicles.

Since the rate of emissions from gas fueled cars was increasing, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 was enacted. This Act required a reduction in the vehicle emissions (so called Tier 1 controls) by the 1994 model year. It also authorized even stricter Tier II controls on a contingency basis, which was to be imposed by 2004 by the EPA administrator, if further studies showed that they needed, technically feasible, and cost effective. The 1990 Act also put up standards to check the evaporative emissions (emissions that occur after engines are shut off. ) (Collantes etal)

California, being the leading state in air pollution, was required by the 1990 law to impose stricter vehicle emissions standards. The state therefore made it a requirement that the manufacturers achieve in stages, fleet-weighted average emissions that would have been lower than the ones mandated by the federal Tier I regulations, beginning with the 1994 model year. All The car manufacturers were authorized to manufacture several zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs, effectively electric-powered cars) by 1998. They were also required to have achieved a total market share of at least 10% by the year 2003.

The Clean Air Amendments Act of 1990 also stated that other States should opt to voluntarily set the Environmental Conservation standards that had been set by California. Some of the North Eastern States, including New York and Massachusetts imposed similar rules in their states. The Ozone Transport Commission, through another provision of the 1990 Act, was also persuaded by some of its members to ask the EPA to pass the auto technology measures on the whole region. The imposition of the laws was required because some of the states had no intention of passing the Californian standards voluntarily.

If EPA had passed these auto technology measures on all the states, then the electric cars would have taken over 40% of the entire U. S auto market. (Collantes, etal) However, this petition was debated on a lot. It was said that the technology then was not ready to meet such high targets. Another reason the proposal was rejected was due to the fact that the battery technology could only give a little range to the vehicles, besides this, the infrastructure to meet them was inadequate. The industry instead proposed an alternative to the Californian standards, which was to market a national low-emitting vehicle (NLEV) in 49 states.

This alternative was tougher than what the law had required the automakers to do, and could meet only the first two levels of the Californian standards. It is clear that the industry was definitely opposed to the idea of an electric vehicle, because it passed the alternative laws, which required all states to ignore the zero emissions Act. For several years, the EPA was unable to make an agreement with between the thirteen jurisdictions and the industry. Also, California was successful in delaying the implementation if the zero electric vehicle mandate until model year 2003.

Of all the states, only Massachusetts, Mine, Mew York and Vermont adopted the Californian requirements and refused to accept the NLEV as a substitute to the law, and the industry would not produce it either, unless they did. In the beginning of 1998, there was stiff competition among the “Big Three” U. S. and three major Japanese companies manufacturing cars. This therefore pushed them to pledge voluntarily to market the NLEV vehicles in the forty-five states which had not mandated Californian cars.

This shows that the auto industry was among the reasons why the electric car was not so successful in the market. Collantes, etal) Were it not for the fact that the U. S. levels of air pollution are increasing every day, the industry would not have realized the need to manufacture the electric vehicles. Although the gasoline-electric cars were also a way to reduce the air pollution, the electric cars would have been more effective. This also shows the extent to which people and the auto industries disliked the electric car. Benefits of the electric cars Although the electric cars are a bit inferior compared to the petrol engine or diesel engine vehicles, they have several attributes.

They are quiet, and therefore provide an appealing driving feel to the user. The major benefits are however on air pollution, the cars reduce the energy use and the green house emissions; they are zero emitting. The pollution benefits are also large, considering the amount of pollution generated at the power plant. The electric vehicle batteries have the capability to practically eliminate the carbon monoxide emissions and volatile the unburned hydrocarbons and hence diminish the nitrogen oxide emissions regardless of how electricity is generated. (Nakamura etal, pg 223-228)

The pollution benefits would be greatest in places like California where most of the electricity comes from tightly controlled natural gas plants and zero-emitting hydroelectric and nuclear plants. They could also be of help to a country like France, which gets most of its electricity from nuclear power. Highly populated cities like Mexico City, Beijing, Bangkok, and Kathmandu, which also source their electricity from nucleus power, could also take advantage of the electric vehicles. Another advantage is that with an electric vehicle, all you have to do is to recharge the battery at home.

You don’t have to worry of the increasing fuel prices or that you have to pass through the gas station on your way to work. In the 1990s, people used to worry that their batteries will run out of charge and cause them inconveniences. However, this has changed, as there are new and better batteries nowadays, with the ability to store charge for longer periods. The battery powered vehicles should be effective today, especially with global warming on the increase. With all these benefits, the electric vehicle needs to be marketed and manufactured in large scale.

The government and the manufacturers need to promote the car, as much as they do to the fuel powered vehicles. A former employee of general motors in the 1990s said that one of the reasons why the electric vehicles did not sell well is because enough advertising was not done. The government has greatly contributed to the low popularity of the electric vehicles. Realizing that cars manufactured in foreign countries could attract more demand than those produced in the U. S. , it opted to support the manufacture of the fuel powered cars, which were more preferred by the public, to the electric powered vehicles.

It was also ineffective because it failed to enact the 1990 Clean Air Enforcement Act. Fuel manufacturing companies, on the other hand, fearing that they would lose the market for fuel, sided with the government in the support for the manufacture of the fuel powered vehicles. The lack of vigorous campaigns to market the electric vehicles is one of the reasons why they are so unpopular today. The fact that the electric cars were once crushed to pieces shows the extent to which their popularity was. Americans have also been ignorant to the idea of promoting the electric car.

They have preferred the hybrid cars to the electric cars, ignoring the fact that they have more benefits. (Paine) Conclusion For the past few years, General Motors has been trying to revive the popularity of the electric vehicles. One of the reasons that brought the realization that there was a need to bring back the electric car was the attack of the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, and the plane that clashed in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. All these instances showed that complete reliance on imported oil is a big threat to the financial and the national security.

Also, the onset of the global economic crisis, which resulted to an increase in the oil prices, made Americans realize the importance of the electric car. America faces the challenge of energy security, reduction of its reliance on imported oil and the ways in which global warming can be reduced. Electric cars could be the solution to these challenges. The ironic twist of events about national security, oil and the climate change has at last brought the understanding that to stabilize our economy; we need to use the electric cars.


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