Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Electric Vehicles: The Cure to Americas Oil Addiction

One of the most memorable days of my life was the day I got my first car.  It was a great day.  I passed my driving test and my grandpa tossed me the keys to his old car and gave me $20 to gas it up.  I drove to the nearest gas station and thats when it hit me, gas was almost $4 a gallon! That was 2008 and its the exact same story right now in 2011.  Gas is currently over $4 a gallon, more than it was then.  Us Americans are so dependent on gasoline and more importantly foreign oil. "Fifty years later, more than 60 percent of the oil consumed in the United States is delivered from abroad, and the trend shows no stops of abating in the future (Braml, pg 118)." Our dependance on foreign oil is a threat to our economy, national security, and environment. If we didn't have it our nation would pretty much shut down.  No one would be able to drive to work or drive period.  It would just be a disaster.  Gasoline run cars create so much polution in our enviroment as well. With the developed technology and continous research and improvement it is imperative that  the United States continues to drives electric or hybrid cars and begins to get more people driving them.  Doing so will not only be cheaper for consumers, but will also be much better for the enviroment that we live in.  

  Electric cars are so much more cost effecient than gasoline powered cars in ways that most people have no clue about.  Gasoline cars are powered by a internal combustion engine. Engines contain many parts that have to replaced throughout the cars lifetime.  There are a lot of them that electric cars don't have like exhaust manifolds, pumps and belts, spark plugs, clutch's, and a whole lot more. These parts are not cheap and also require installment. Most people don't know how to do this so they have to pay a mechanic to install them which costs a LOT of money.  These engines also need a lot of products like antifreeze, coolant, and engine oil.  All of these products need to be changed around 4000 miles. All of these parts are not inside of a electric car which means there are no transmission problems or oil changes.  You can go here to read more in depth explanations on why electric cars are much more maintenance efficient than gasoline cars. There are only 5 moving parts to a electric car compared to the 100s in a gasoline powered car.  Other than the battery these are all very inexpensive parts and are also installed relatively easy.  The only expensive part to a electric car is the lithium ion battery, which costs around 10 to 20 thousand dollars. That sounds really expensive, but they last can last up to two decades and are much cheaper in the long run compared to buying gas.  Overall the maintance cost of electric cars is much cheaper than the maintenance cost of a gasoline powered car, saving the driver time and money.  

         The most important aspect of the electric car is how efficently they preform. The more efficient a car preforms the more money you save.  It is as simple as that and the effeciency between the two are so far apart from each other.  A gasoline powered car preforms at just around 20% efficiency.  This means that only about 20% of the energy from the burning gasoline is used to move the vehicle.  The other 80% is lost because of heat.  This is such an unacceptable number and thats why our country buys billions of barrels of oil from foreign countries.  Of course some gasoline powered cars do better than the rest, but the average miles per gallon is 20.  The average car has a gas tank that can hold around 16 gallons, so the math says that you spend $64 to travel 320 miles when gasoline costs $4 a gallon.  That is ridiculous.  The whole point of people driving to long distance place is to save money instead spending a pretty penny on air fair. But now its getting expensive just to travel period.  While gasoline powered vehicles perform at 20% effeciency electric cars perform at 92% efficiency. Compared to gasoline cars this is amazing that a car can take 92% of its energy and use it to move the vehicle.  The only downside to electric cars is that the batteries have to be recharged and can only run for a certain amount of miles before they need to be recharged for a certain amount of time. But being in the year 2011 technology is advancing very fast.  "Continued research into the design and production of high-energy batteries will improve the performance and outlook for electric vehicles (Deal III pg. 2.)" There are batteries that are good for up to 300 miles before having to be recharged for 12 hours.  Thats not bad at all.  So how much would it cost to drive the same 320 mile trip in an electric car? Well, there are many different brands and models out there.  Electric cars are measured by watts per hour just like normal cars are measured with miles per gallon.  The average watt per hour with electric cars is 177 watts per hour. You can go here to read a more detailed explanation of electric car efficiency and battery life.  There is direct link with watts per gallon and money. Every 100 watt per hour equals 1 cent.  Lets do the same math we did for the gasoline power car. Amazingly it only costs $5.44.  You can now see that even though these cars cost more money up front they will save more money in the long run and ultimately pay for themselves.  Electric cars are even cheaper to drive when gasoline costs $1.50 a gallon.  The upfront cost to electric cars, which is pretty similar compared to most conventional cars, will also decrease as driving them becomes more popular. "As demand for electric vehicles increases and production follows, it can be expected that vehicle prices will fall (Deal III, pg 3)."

    Electric cars are also more efficient in preserving our enviroment than gasoline powered cars.  As a matter of fact the gasoline powered car is the single greatest poluter in the world.  They emit many harmfull gasses, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and many many more. You can go here to read   Out of all of these gasses carbon monoxide is the most harmuful one and is fatal to humans.  Carbon monoxide results from incomplete combustion of fuel and is emitted directly from vehicle tailpipes. You can go here to read about what these emissions exactly are and how they are harmful to you.  Gasoline powered cars are accounted for about 2/3 of carbon monoxide in the enviroment with the largest contribution coming from cars on the highway. Gasoline powered vehicles are also the largest contributers of smog which contains hundred of chemicals. There are many ways gasoline powered cars contribute to smog.  First is the emissions from the tailpipe. Diesel engines emit a large amount of soot into the enviroment which can be seen as black smoke coming out of the tailpipe.  Gasoline contributes to smog with out even driving a vehicle. Gasoline vapors that escape the gas pump create the hydrocarbons that help create smog. You can go here to read more about how smog harms health and the environment. Electric cars create no polution or smog. They are 98.9-99.9% cleaner means of transportations than an internal combustion engine.  The use of electric cars will shift pollution to power plants, which is much easier to clean up than millions of  cars being driven around at the same time.  

 So whats the one good thing about driving gasoline powered cars you might ask? Well for one they are fun to drive for some people because they are really really fast.  There are so many sports cars out there that many people think no electric car in the world can compete with.  Well those people are wrong.  With the new techonology being created in the year 2011 electric cars are turning into fast and sleek sports cars too.  Take for example the tesla roadster. This car looks like a cross between a porsche and a ferrari but the difference is this car is 100% electric. It runs on a lithium ion battery that can go up 245 miles before needing to be charged, and some models come with a lithium ion battery that can go 300 miles before being charged.  The Tesla Roadster is extremely fast and can accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in only 3.7 seconds.  Thats .6 seconds less than the ferrari enzo, which is the rarest, fastest, and most expensive car ferrari makes.  You can go here to read all the performance specs of the Tesla Roadster. The thing about buying a sports car is that you have to be able to afford their hefty price tags, but you also have to be able to afford to gas them up.  Gasoline powered sports cars run on huge V-12 engines with superchargers that make them so fast.  These huge engines drink gas like a thirsty athlete.  A ferrari bought at 175,000 dollars and driven regurally will nearly double in price after 15 years. On the other hand a electric car with the same capabilities in speed performance will be paying for itself over the years.  Electric sports cars also wont need those expensive parts replaced like a gasoline powered sports car. Here is a video of the Tesla Roadster. 

It would be a very smart choice for Americans to start driving electric cars due to the current and ongoing gas situation.  If gas is this high right now just imagine what it would be like in 15 more years. Electric powered cars and hybrid cars are already starting to pop up throughout the country, but gasoline powered cars are still the overwhelming majority on the streets.  Electric powered cars have much to offer including their outstanding efficiency rates, zero car emissions, and are very inexpensive when it comes to their maintenance. Due to the ongoing problem of oil and gas prices in the United States, the conversion from gasoline powered cars to electric cars will have to happen at some point.  The United States should start to incorporate them now to make the transition smoother.

Works cited
Braml, Josef. "Can the United States Shed Its Oil Addiction?" Washington Quarterly,
       Autumn 2007, Academic Search Complete. Monday May 16, 2011

Deal III, Walter F.  "Going Green with Electric Vehicles." Technology & Engineering Teacher,
       November 2010, Academic Search Complete. Monday May 16