There is no escaping the electric car. All accomplishments of the past five years allow no other conclusion: the electric cars are coming and there is no stopping them. We will show you how to get ready for it!
From a favourite child into a problem
When the car was ready for mass production some 100 years ago, this meant a real revolution. Now travelling anywhere, anytime and with anybody became possible. Neither horse nor railway were able to compete with the unbeatable flexibility the car offered. The enthusiasm for the car has been undiminished ever since.
However, there is more than one downside: a car consumes liquid fuel in the form of diesel or petrol, both being petroleum products. Fuel is combusted and blown into the environment. For a long time nobody cared. It is hard to imagine now, during the car’s first decades leaded fuel was normal. Megatons of this toxic heavy metal were added to fuel and spread in the environment by the engines. Today, thanks to modern exhaust cleaning technology this is a thing of the past.
However, cars continue to spray toxins: carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, soot particles, particulate matter and many other harmful substances land in the environment. The automotive industry is aware of this – and does exactly the wrong thing: the Volkswagen diesel scandal is proof of the fact that the concerns lack both will and expertise to make cars really clean.
Only one way to zero emission
Only one type of car really drives clean and emission-free: the electric car. An electric car has no combustion engine and therefore produces no toxic exhaust. Electric cars have several other advantages to combustion engines – as well as some disadvantages.
Initiatives for electric mobility existed from the start. Already before the turn of the twentieth century the first inventors considered the electric engine the future of young car manufacturing. However, the combustion engine has prevailed, although electric vehicles never became extinct. Their main problem was the battery. The lead batteries, the only available ones for several decades, were way too heavy for electric mobility. Furthermore, their capacity was insufficient to be employed in an economically feasible manner. For a long time the world of the electric vehicle was restricted to golf carts, mobility scooters and mini-cars.
Lithium-ion batteries were a breakthrough. These ultra-compact storage devices were originally developed for mobile phones and laptops and soon conquered the world of rechargeable batteries. They were the deathblow for nickel-cadmium batteries: shorter charging times, considerably more capacity and especially neither memory effect nor battery death by deep discharging were the considerable advantages of lithium-ion technology. A young billionaire from California had the idea of serially switching battery packs and installing them in an electric car. Tesla is definitely a pioneer of electric mobility on lithium-ion basis.
Breaking point: output
There is no doubt: the days of the smelly combustion engine with its miserable output are numbered. Petrol and diesel engines are dead, they just don’t know it yet. Under lab conditions fuel engines attain a 40% output. Diesel reaches three percent more, but what does this actually mean?
This means that even an idling engine under optimal conditions and perfect rev loses 57 – 60% of its energy through heat radiation.
The efficiency of combustion engine in a car is worse. The heat must permanently be conducted away from the engine. This is standard done by a water cooling system. The cooling system and the coolant add considerable weight to a car. Ultimately, combustion engines do not always function at an optimal rpm – on the contrary. On most occasions the car is driving at too low or too high rev. This means that when a car consumes 10 litres of fuel per 100 km, only 3,5 litres are used for propulsion. Six and a half litres of fuel are converted into heat and radiated into the environment.
Electric engines on the other hand, have a considerably lower heat emission. The output of a normal electric engine is 74% in lab conditions and often doesn’t need additional liquid cooling. Electric engines have a considerably better acceleration than combustion engines. The optimal rev is better in electric cars than in petrol and diesel engines. In the field of output an electric engine beats the normal combustion engine by far.
Transitional technology: the hybrid
The hybrid car is no new invention. In the 1920, Ferdinand Porsche experimented with this drive concept. At that time and in the following decades, however, nobody seemed to appreciate the advantages of this double-engine concept.
A hybrid car is a car with two engines: a combustion engine and an electric engine. There are considerable differences in how both these drives co-operate.
With the Prius, Toyota has made the hybrid suitable for the masses. Electric engine and combustion engine are compatible in their drive function. The driver can switch from fuel to electric drive anytime. This initiative already shows plenty of advantages: lower fuel consumption, very silent driving and a clean image were the most important sales arguments for a hybrid.
The original concept generated plenty of variations: plug-in hybrids allow charging of the battery in the home garage. Very interesting are electric cars with the so-called “range extender“. These are pure electric cars with a small combustion engine on board, charging the battery during driving by way of a generator. With this technology, pure electric mobility comes very close. Hybrid cars should be considered transitional technology between combustion and electric engines. Still, the future drives exclusively electric.
Electric mobility is the first and foremost subject of research and development with regard to traffic-related technology. Apart from the American pioneers, the Chinese put considerable pressure on the market. Already three out of ten most successful electric car manufacturers come from the Middle Empire. If you add Nissan and Toyota, the Asians presently possess half of the global electric automotive market. Although TESLA is still market leader, traditional concerns like BMW and Volkswagen are bound to catch up. The available spectrum is wide. From pure combustion engine cars to pure electric vehicles there is a car with the right mix for everybody.
At present, electric cars still suffer from three main disadvantages: the relatively small range, the low amount of charging points and the long charging times. But as said before: research and development are ongoing.
Choosing the right time
Incentives for electric mobility exist worldwide. The so-called Plug-in Car Grant programme in the UK was extended until 2018. What happens next, is not yet clear. Hybrid cars, especially plug-in hybrids generally have very small combustion engines, providing a considerable tax advantage.
The selection of pure electric cars continuously grows. Soon the newest generations of Golf, Polo and Smart will be available, exclusively driven by electricity.
The present market is very interesting and growing as we speak. With the very cheap Model 3, TESLA has confirmed his status as a pioneer once again. Affordable, practical and exciting electric cars will soon be available from all manufacturers.
The electric mobility market still looks somewhat experimental. The ungainly and expensive BMW i3 and the weird and flamboyant Renault Twizzy are two typical examples. In a few years, however, the electric car will be just as common as it will be affordable.
Electric mobility and classic
Purists are up in arms due to another, very interesting trend in electric mobility: a growing number of companies offer conversion of cars from combustion to electricity. The company RUF has been active for a while conversing Porsche models. The module constantly becoming cheaper and more flexible enables fascinating projects: electric driving with classic cars. Enjoying the advantages of an electric car in the beauty of a Jaguar E-type is no longer a dream and can – on condition of available cash – now be ordered.
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