Electric Car Charging (Silicon Prairies Social, 2012)
For this project, I intend to write an instruction manual for an electric car. This seems like an interesting topic because environmental issues are becoming more noticeable all the time and it seems that our society will have to accelerate its response to these issues. It is likely that part of the response will include the mass production of electric vehicles at some point in the future. Although this technology is similar to the motor vehicles that are on the road today, there are many differences that drivers will have to get used to. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to document how the electric car will work and how it will differ from existing vehicles that run on fossil fuels.
The most obvious difference is that the vehicles are powered by different fuel sources and require a totally different infrastructure to provide power for the vehicles. For example, gasoline and diesel vehicles are dependent on a supply chain that relies on fossil fuels predominantly supplied by oil reserves in the Middle East. The oil is pumped out of the ground, shipped on massive cargo tanks to an oil refinery, trucked to the distribution network of gas stations, and then pumped into individual vehicles. This infrastructure is already in place and is so common that just about everyone takes it for granted.
However, there will need to be somewhat of a culture shift as society moves to electric cars since many features of the infrastructure and the cars themselves will be substantially different. For example, instead of being able to pump fuel into your car in a matter of minutes, many electric vehicles today require charging which can take hours. Therefore, you might have to charge your car at work all day to be able to drive it back home. Furthermore, if your battery goes dead on a commute somewhere then this could be problematic to say the least. However there have been some designs presented for swappable batteries that would allow drivers to exchange their dead batteries for fresh ones at a gas station-like battery charging convenience center. Such a facility would make the experience similar to the current transportation system however developing an infrastructure like this would require significant time and resources to develop. Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to create an instruction manual of what you might find when purchasing an electric car five or ten years down the road and try to imagine how it would differ from transportation today.
History of the Electric Car
Electric Vehicles are not exactly a new technology. In fact, these vehicles have been around since the late 19th century. Some taxis services and trucks actually used a swappable battery technology to power their vehicles. The vehicle's owner would purchase the electric vehicle without a battery, and then rent a battery from the power company while paying a per-usage fee. Other electric vehicles also had success in competing with gasoline power vehicles in such areas as total range, speed, and acceleration. Furthermore, these electric vehicles were quieter, smoother, and much cleaner than their gasoline counterparts and they also did not have to been started with any physical effort on the behalf of the driver such as having to turn a crankshaft to start a gasoline powered motor. Therefore, electric vehicles became popular among the city population due to their ease of use; especially female drivers.
However, once the gasoline powered engine became ubiquitous in society, the electric vehicle diminished in popularity quickly. Using electricity as a vehicle power source did not become a popular idea again until problems started to arise in the supply of oil that people began to investigate alternative sources of power for vehicles again. The energy crisis of the 1970s and the 1980s was one such event that refueled interest in an electric motor once again. Consumers and producers were concerned with the reliability of the supply chains that delivered the oil. Many industrialized countries had reached domestic peak oil and were relying on foreign suppliers, mainly from the Middle East, to export their oil supplies.
Although the initial interest in electric vehicles was generated by concerns of the availability of oil, another wave of interest was fueled by pollution and environmental concerns. Many urban centers were becoming bastions for air pollution. Although air pollution did diminish in this period with increases in emission standards, there were also growing concerns about other pollution issues steaming from rising greenhouse gas emissions.
As the effects of climate change are steadily becoming increasingly clear, there has been a rush to develop technologies that can help mitigate this phenomenon. The renewable energy sector has experienced rapid development; especially in countries in Europe and even China. Although solar and wind technologies are considered to be still in an early stage of their development, in they can reach widespread implementation then they could offer a substantial solution to the imminent energy crisis as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Electric cars have a substantial advantage over gasoline powered cars in many areas. Even when the electric that powers these vehicles comes from dirty electricity generation, such as coal fired plants, the emission reduction is still substantial. Furthermore if these vehicles could be powered with renewable resources then this would offer the most comprehensive solution to greenhouse gas pollution generated from transportation that is feasible in the short-term time frame. Many automotive manufactures have recognized that this is most likely the most viable solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation any producers are racing to bring electric vehicles to market as quickly as possible. Even though the technology is still more expensive than its gas powered counterparts, consumers are already willing to pay a premium for these vehicles and this demand is expected to increase exponentially.
General Instructions for the use of an Electric Vehicle
Figure 2 - Electric vs. Gasoline Advantages and Disadvantages (Hybrid Cars, 2012)
This manuscript is intended to give a general overview of some of the features that an owner of a traditionally powered gasoline vehicle might need to know about before considering purchasing an electric vehicle. Although many of the features are similar to what one might find on a gasoline vehicle, there are also many distinct differences. For example, some people are actually uncomfortable with the quietness of an electric vehicle because they are so used to louder engines that the new technology feels alien at first. Although time can help for people to adjust to the new electric vehicles, this guide will work to prepare people for their first experiences with an electric car.
Figure 3 - Nissan Leaf - Currently the Best Selling Electric Vehicle
The main differences in the physical composition are rather extensive. For example, an electric vehicle has relatively few moving parts. In many electric vehicles the total number of moving parts can be less than ten; in some simple designs the total number can be less than three. However, gasoline engines by comparison have hundreds of moving parts included in their designs. This is one major difference that needs to be pointed out first because it has vast implication in the cost of ownership for these different types of vehicles. Although gasoline powered vehicles may be less expensive initially, they can become far more expensive to maintain given there complexity. However, an electric vehicle requires far less maintenance which works to reduce the cost of ownership associated with owning the car.
Figure 4 - Electric Vehicle Components Exploded Diagram Example (The Auto Channel, 2008)
Most electric vehicles in production today are composed of a smaller form such as being built on a sub-compact or compact frame. Although some electric vehicles are built on a mid-sized frame, the limitations from the power source limit the size and weight of electric vehicles. Other noticeable features might include the lack of a gas door. Instead of using a gas station for refills, there are compartments to hook up the car to an electricity source. The Nissan Leaf has this compartment on the very front of the vehicle and other models also position them in different areas of the vehicle. Most of them seem to be positioned in other areas other than where you might find a typical gas refilling station.
The interiors of these vehicles also resemble modern gasoline vehicles fairly closely. Instead of keys there is generally a button to press to start the engine. However, the same technology is also present on many of the newer gasoline powered cars as well. The most notable impression that one will probably gain from turning on an electric vehicle one is the total lack of sound. Electric vehicles are much quieter than a gasoline engine and this can be shocking at first to many first time users. The gauges are fairly similar to gasoline vehicles as well except for there are…