Electric Vehicles. Development and Innovations
The internal combustion engine cars remain the most popular car utilized all over the world. However, with the continuous increase in oil prices and the growing concern about the environmental degradation, heightened by the use of fuel to power cars, more people are considering alternatives than ever before. Electric vehicles are the one promising alternative for the conventional car type. Hence, efforts concentrating on improvements to the car’s capabilities are already mounting.
Currently, several developments are already being seen when it comes to the car’s design. For instance, the electro motor of an electric car can be situated in the front or back of the car. Moreover, electric vehicles can also be powered directly in its wheels. This is made possible by small electric motors positioned in the car’s wheels.
The power, as mentioned earlier, comes from the battery, which can be located at the back, middle, or front part of the car. Design is one of the areas that innovative electric car companies are aiming at; hence, it can be expected that these companies will be releasing many more models with upgrades on design in the next decade.
The electric vehicle’s battery is also very important; thus, major innovations cover the improvements related to it. Currently, Li-ion polymer batteries are being used to power electric vehicles. This battery showed significant advantage in power density over the conventional batteries used, like Ni-MH and Pb-Ac. Research, however, hasn’t stopped in creating better batteries for the electric cars.
Giant car companies like Toyota, Nissan, and Renault have teamed up with other companies in order to create electric vehicle batteries with cycle-life, able to resist fast-charging, increased energy density and improved power output. Innovations have already produced cost efficient, durable, and lighter batteries; nonetheless, they actually are still relatively heavy and expensive to produce. Car companies are aiming at smaller battery packs to avoid vehicle weight and expensive vehicle costs.
Another area that can be improved is the transmission unit. Most electric vehicles available today use a central electro motor that sends power indirectly to the car’s wheels. Innovations are now being conducted to improve electro motors by increasing their power and decreasing their size and weight.
In addition to all of this, the electric vehicles’ energy infrastructure also needs improvements. Once the use of electric vehicles will be implemented in large scales, the need for more advanced and improved charging infrastructure will be increased. Innovations in this particular area are aimed at the possibility of charging electric vehicles in parking lots in a shorter period of time.
In relation to this, systems for automatic payment must be set available in parking spaces. Currently, the main infrastructure required for electric vehicles’ power supply is not widely available. If an electric car’s battery is empty, it could be plugged into any available power point to recharge, which would drastically increase convenience.
An electric car fully charged from the standard 230-volts power point can reach the 200-300 km range, once fully charged. Some electric vehicles that are used for short travels can be plugged into the driver’s household during the night time in order to be utilized in the following morning.
Of course, the power output and battery size will influence the charging time. Usually an electric vehicle needs to be charged for 2-7 hours. Naturally, another innovation that is being considered is having stations where batteries can be traded, which will run automatically.
Battery of the Future
With over 60 partners from both industrial and academic circles including Volkswagen, Evonik, BASF, Li-Tech, and Bosch, the Lithium-Ion Battery Alliance was founded in 2008 to develop cost-effective, high-capacity lithium-ion batteries for automobiles. Among the more successful initiatives are the following:
The team – the largest in the alliance – works on creating electric car batteries that have a high energy density level. Among the other goals they are hoping to meet is to build a battery that is environment-friendly, long-lasting, and ensures a good level of safety.
Battery safety is considered to be the most apparent concern for many car manufacturers, and this is the mandate being carried out by researchers in this project. Creating a battery that can store high quantities of energy is not without considerable risk. Risks include possible charge instability and temperature fluctuations.
Researchers working on this project are looking for and testing new varieties of gel polymer electrolytes that can bring good mechanical strength to the battery aside from what could be high conductivity levels.
Electric-Powered Race Car Motor
The image of electric-powered hybrid cars constitute a slow-moving car that would not hold water when raced against petrol-run cars. That’s about to change as the engineers at the University of Oxford have successfully developed electric motors that are more than capable of running at par with many of the world’s fastest sports cars.
Creating an electric motor that can match the capabilities of petrol-powered motors seemed unthinkable, but Oxford student Tim Woolmer and his professor Dr. Malcolm McCulloch were both challenged to make possible what seemed to be impossible.
Electric motors have two main parts: one that’s stationary and one that’s always moving. Electric currents and magnetic fields cause the moving part to spin but the geometric configuration of the rotating drum leads to high speed losses. The team led by Woolner and McCulloch found a system that makes the rotating part move similar to a circular pancake.
McCullock devised a way to create the complicated shapes required to turn their system into a reality. After building the first prototype, the benefits were apparent. The new motor decreased electric losses by as much as 25 percent, which then reduced the required cooling by just as much.
Not yet satisfied with what they managed to build, the team always found a way to improve the system to further better its efficiency and thus its application. After several years of painstaking research and development, the Oxford team managed to create segmented armature motor that is several times lighter than its nearest competitor.
The motor became so popular that Oxford Yasa Motors, a company comprised mainly by the members of the Oxford team, received a 3.4 million-euro grant in 2009 for them to develop the design into a real product for the market. Delta Motors has since been using the motors they designed.
Google Self-Driving Car
Never lacking in innovation, Google X designed an almost zero-emission self-driving electric car technology. The company unveiled a car concept that features a model without pedals, nor steering wheel, in May 2014 at a Google convention.
Seven months after revealing the car design, the team behind the project introduced the first fully-functional prototype, proving that there’s nothing too ambitious for the brains behind the company. At the beginning of 2015 and after securing permits from the state, the team began testing the car in the San Francisco Bay Area. If after several years of continuous testing, the self-driving car produces positive results, Google will begin mass-producing the said car and make it available to the public.
Included in the pre-installed equipment in the autonomous car is a $70,000 LIDAR system which uses 64 beam lasers fired from a mounted range finder to generate an extremely detailed 3D representation of the immediate environment. Combined with the pre-programmed data of the street-level maps of the world, the 3D map generated by the lasers are used as basis for the car’s movements and decision-making.
During the initial testings conducted in mid-2015, most of the issues encountered by the self-driving car included safety concerns when there was snow or heavy rain. There were recorded instances when the car relied heavily on historical route data that it did not obey recently-adjusted traffic lights. When the car was faced with complicated unmapped locations, it switched to a slower and inefficient extra-safe mode. The 3D map it generated was unable to differentiate harmless light debris from heavy obstructions.
Despite all these difficulties, Google announced that as of June 2015, the electricity-powered self-driving car had traveled over a million miles. The prototype had encountered over 150 million other vehicles, more than 600,000 traffic lights and at least 200,000 stop signs. Confident that five years would make a difference, Google is gearing to release the autonomous car by 2020.
The German government, in the hopes of making good with their commitment to provide country-wide electric mobility, channeled the experience and expertise of more than 30 revered German institutes, putting together industry experts for a project referred to as the “Fraunhofer System Research for Electromobility”. The members are not solely from the field of engineering since the whole thrust of the project is to create a holistic interdisciplinary study that will lay down the foundation towards electromobility.
The project has already given birth to two vehicle prototypes: “AutoTram” and the “FreccO”, both powered by electricity. Fraunhofer-Gesselschaft received more than 30 million euros as financial support from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
The five main thrusts of the research are as follows:
- Energy sourcing, power distribution, and electricity conversion:Electric vehicles are more ideal and efficient when their power is sourced from renewable resources.
- Power storage technology: For more Germans to embrace electric-powered vehicles, it is crucial to invest in a mobile energy storage that can provide a steady supply of electrical energy.
- Vehicle design: The shift towards electric-powered motors are revolutionary, but vehicle design must conform to modern day standards of public transport.
- Socio-political integration: Introducing electromobility and technical integration of the demonstration vehicles (AutoTram – a tram system that is not installed on a rail network; and FreccO – electricity powered sports car) to the rest of Germany will require support from elected leaders of the country.
- Testing and mass production: Aside from functionality, electric cars must conform with standards applied to petrol-powered cars, especially in terms of safety, comfort, and reliability.
Weighing Pros and Cons
Some experts, in and out of the electric car market, would say that the future of cars is electric. Simply put, oil is a non-renewable resource that can be depleted anytime. Hence, the belief is that people will eventually have to turn to a significantly more efficient alternative to the conventional car.
This is a prime reason why carmakers are now pursuing innovations in the electric car industry. Nonetheless, some people are still indecisive about whether to choose electric-powered cars or to stick with the traditional internal combustion engine cars. To help one decide, the following presents the advantages and disadvantages of electric powered cars.
The Downside of Electric Vehicles
- Electric cars are relatively expensive.
Perhaps one of the most notable, negative characteristics of electric vehicles is their expensive price compared to their counterpart. Despite efforts to make innovations with the car features and parts that would drive the total production costs lower, electric vehicles are still generally expensive for the average consumer.
Nonetheless, some studies show that in the long-run, the use of electric cars could actually save the consumer money. Such research, however, does not matter for some people as they consider the purchase price to be just as important as future savings.
- Electric cars have slower speeds and shorter driving range.
Another significant factor that is considered a major disadvantage to electric cars is their limited range. The conventional internal combustion engine car can reach 300 miles before needing to be re-fueled. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, can only reach 100 to 200 miles before the need to recharge arises.
Most consumers would prefer a rather flexible vehicle, which could handle both short distances and long travels. This was a problem considered by car companies long ago; hence, efforts on improving the mileage of the electric vehicles are continuing as strong as ever.
- Electric cars also tend to be smaller and have lower top speeds than the traditional car type. The average top speed of internal combustion cars is 124 mph, whilst affordable electric vehicles usually run up to 95 mph. In addition to this, electric vehicles tend to be heavier than the conventional cars. This is primarily because of the batteries, controllers, electric motors, and chargers. Having accessories in electric vehicles such as radios and an air conditioning system could contribute to the faster drainage of the car’s battery pack.
- Charging electric cars may take time.
Compared to simply refilling a depleted gas tank, which often takes ten minutes tops, electric vehicle’s recharging time also poses a notable disadvantage. Drained electric cars cannot be utilized for several hours until they are fully recharged. Therefore, electric cars are not suitable for long, continuous travels. Car companies are already working on innovations aimed at making the charging process faster for electric vehicles. Also, as mentioned earlier, they are looking at the possibility of battery swapping instead of recharging.
- Some electric car designs are counter productive to the vision of widespread carbon emission reductions. Emissions also come from the electricity source utilized to charge the electric vehicle’s battery. If the electricity is actually produced, the environmental benefits of electric cars are significantly decreased.
However, if the source of electricity happens to come from a renewable resource, then electric vehicles can really be the most environmentally friendly cars.
Silence can be a disadvantage.
Electric cars reduce noise pollution, but for drivers who are used to hearing incoming vehicles, or just enjoy the raucous sound of their engine revving, may find it hard to adjust to the quiet electric car system.
Electric recharging stations are sparse .
Unlike gas stations, which are at least within a hundred miles of each other in the vastest regions of the United States, electric recharging stations are uncommon even on American soil. Many potential consumers fear that they might find themselves stuck with their car in the middle of a long trip due to a depleted battery.
The Upside of Electric Vehicles
Manufacturing costs are on a steep decline.
Although it is more expensive to buy electric vehicles, they are actually cheaper to run than the conventional car types. Generally, it is the battery that makes an electric car expensive.
Luckily, current trends show that the future is actually looking at a price decrease for batteries. This is because of the growing number of companies manufacturing electric car batteries, forcing competitive prices in the marketplace.
Electric cars reduce noise pollution.
Another factor that makes electric cars unique is the cars’ silence while in use. The most notable characteristic of electric vehicles is the minimal noise that can be heard both from the inside and out.
This makes the car appealing for people who really despise the noise produced by the internal combustion engine cars.
Electric cars have lower maintenance costs.
- Electric vehicles are actually mechanically simple compared to its counterpart. This makes them less costly in areas of operation and routine maintenance. The conventional internal combustion engine cars need maintenance for the tires, wheels, fuel, warning lights, engine, lights, bodyworks, and electrical systems.
Electric cars, on the other hand, do not require as much upkeep, due to the simplicity of the mechanisms working under the car’s hood.
- Government provides incentives for electric car usage.
There are also incentives that are waiting for consumers who will prefer electric vehicles. Electric car owners get to pay lower taxes compared to people who own other car types. For instance, the vehicle registration tax can be reduced up to 50%. In the government’s eyes, more taxes are to be paid by owners of vehicles that are highly pollutant.
Another advantage that electric vehicles have compared to conventional vehicles is the wide availability of the power needed to run the car. Power can be harnessed from any electricity source. Such sources are generally available in most households and businesses.
Mechanically-speaking, electric vehicles have better design than their petroleum-based peers.
- Electric vehicles can accelerate well. There is no need to “rev up” while using an electric car to reach the maximum strength. The average acceleration of electric vehicles from 0-60 miles per hour is 4-6 seconds.
Internal combustion engine cars, however, have the average acceleration of 0-60 miles per hour in 8.4 seconds.
Electric cars are generally safer to drive.
With many of today’s scientists focused on making an electric-car-dominated society, most spend their time making sure that the capabilities of electric cars outmatch that of gas powered cars.
Most of the proposed designs undergo complex testing procedures and fitness tests to make sure that the electric cars enjoy continuous supply from the battery and that all possible safety measures are in place.
Electric cars help better the environment.
Electric vehicles are seen as very good alternatives to the conventional cars primarily because of the environmental benefits they can provide. Cleaner air is possible with electric cars; this is due to the zero emission associated with them.
The use of electric cars can help reduce carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon by 98%. Consequently, electric vehicles can help reduce long-term and short-term environmental problems and that is very important to some consumers. In addition to this, batteries used in electric cars can be recycled easily. This minimizes the disposal problems that batteries usually face.
The Ultimate Guide for Understanding the Electric Car and What You Need
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