Saturday, 30 June 2012

Electric cars, an expensive alternative to fossil fuel

In the good old days in England when fuel less then a pound around 2008 the supermarkets had a price war on fuel the cost was 89 per liter of fuel. This year, the cost had peaked up to £1.42 because of the potential Fuel tanker shrike that didn't happen. In the start of June prices shrink down £1.33, but because of the embargo in Iran and the situation of the Eurozone. World news effects prices and it filters down to the consumer.
People struggle every week on the cost of living and in some ways are effected by the rise in fuel prices , which raises the cost of transport of food and other consumer good in the markets.

Which I guess why Tesla (a electric car company ) are making a bold prediction that  in 20 years time  new cars will be fully electric. Chief Executive Elon Musk, an entrepreneur known for his outsized ambition. Last friday made a forecast battery powered cars will likely match the internal combustion engine.

Musk, co Founder the startup of Pay-pal, divides his time between Tesla and his space exploration startup Space X.
Electric cars were popular in the 19th century  and early 20th century, until early advances of the internal combustion engine technology. With mass production and cheap gasoline vehicles led the decline of electric cars. But energy crisis of the 70s and 80s brought a short lived interest in electric cars. This grew further in mid 2000s a renewed enthusiasm, due to rapidly increasing oil prices and to reduce green house gas emissions.
Companies including Tesla RoadsterMitsubishi i MiEVNissan LeafRenault Fluence Z.E. Ford Focus ElectricBMW ActiveE, not to mention a few more are available. The nissan leaf sold 27,000 units worldwide by early April 2012. The Mitsubishi i MiEV sold 17,000 units through october 2011.
The electric car has several benefits, compared with internal combustion cars. They have a slight reduction on air pollution, they do not emit harmful pollutants. They reduce greenhouse gases, depending on the technology charging the batteries, finally they do not relay on oil.
Despite the advantages, widespread adoption of electric cars faces several hurdles and limitations. Electric cars are significantly more expensive then conventional internal combustion engine and hybrid electric vehicles in 2011. This is because of the cost of Lithium ion battery packs, however prices seem to be dropping. Other factors such as the recharging infrastructure, or limited number of electric car showrooms may contribute to the reluctance of a electric changeover. Several government have established policies and economical incentives to promote the sales of electric cars. They are to fund further development of electric vehicles and more cost effective battery components. The US pledged $2.4 billion in federal grants, while China will provide US$15 billion to initiate an electric car industry within its borders.

Lithium ion battery technology seems to provide high energy density is relatively low in weight but is durable for 400 to 1200 cycles. Normally situated in handheld electronics, they are widely available, suffer no memory effect. In the way of losing  its recharge effectiveness despite not fully discharging the battery.
They also have the disadvantage of a limited charge cycle and efficiency might drop in high temperatures.
They also need a battery power management system  to prevent operation out side the safety limits. In extreme cases Lithium ion batteries can rupture or explode when exposed to high temperature.

There have be talk about alternative options to lithium ion, molten salt batteries with an operating temperature of 400 to 700 degrees C are a promising technology. They have problems of thermal management but recent  battery such as the ZEBRA battery operate 245 degree C, with a higher charge cycle of 3000.
Zinc bromie is a hybrid  electrochemical battery, they have a high energy density relative to lead acid batteries, have a high charge cycle life of 2000 no shelf life limitations like lithium ion.

What ever the future claims on transportation, there is a certainty of a countdown to the end of crude oil and fossil fuels. Technology has given us a faster electric car in the form of a tesla roadster clocking at 102 miles an hour for quarter of a mile, can travel around about 200 miles on one charge. It seems impressive that that electric car technology can complete with the combustion engine. Though at £86,950 I am thinking technology is not quite there. I do hope that battery technology becomes safer and cheaper then the current lithium ion standard, which seems to be the key thing for it to be a success. Until then I will carry on with my fossil fuel driven car and hope that I don't ruin the planet too much.

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