Image Credits: Tom Wang/shutterstock.com
In 1890, Des Moines, Iowa native chemist William Morrison engineered the first successful electric car, which was capable of a top speed of 14 miles per hour while holding up to six passengers. While this prototype was simple in its design, it helped spark the interest in electric vehicles that is still prominent in today’s automobile industry.
Despite its popularity, electric cars took a significant blow following the introduction of Henry Ford’s Model T gasoline-powered car in 1908. With a gasoline car priced at $650, compared to $1,750 for an electric car in 1912, the affordability of fuel vehicles made them more popular in the following century.
With soaring oil prices, gasoline shortages becoming a relentless reality, and environmental concerns regarding carbon emissions, electric cars seem to be the most logical next step in automobile development. While the viability of electric cars yields a promising future, certain crucial aspects of this environmentally friendly alternative should be considered.
Significant Savings in Cost
The inherent advantages of an electrically powered vehicle are undeniable. With significant savings available due to the elimination needed for fuel, as well as incentives provided by the government for going green, electric cars are an efficient alternative that are cheaper to operate. For example, it is estimated that the average electric vehicle can travel about 43 miles at a cost of $1.00, whereas the average 22 miles per gallon gasoline vehicle, combined with an estimated cost of $1.25/gallon, is able to travel about 18 miles for the same price.
It is estimated that the average American spends $2,000-$4,000 on gas each year, which is significantly comparable to the estimated average cost of around $540.00 per year to charge an electric car. In addition to the astounding energy savings provided by electric cars, the United States federal Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit provides owners of either plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and all-electric vehicles (EVs) with a tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500 for new purchases. The size of this tax credit is determined by the size of the vehicle and its battery capacity.
Fewer Parts Require Less Maintenance
Despite the striking external similarities between electric cars and gasoline cars, where the only noticeable difference is the lack of a tail pipe, CALSTART, the advanced transportation consortium in California, states that up to 70% of an electric vehicle’s component parts may be different than that of a gasoline-powered vehicle.
The motor is the only moving part within an electric vehicle, whereas gasoline-powered vehicles can contain hundreds of moving parts that allow for its successful operation. With fewer parts, the electric vehicle requires significantly less periodic maintenance compared to that of the gasoline-powered vehicle, whose maintenance requirements range from frequent oil changes, filter replacements, exhaust system repairs, periodic tune-ups, and other less frequent, but significant and costly replacements.
Image Credits: Mike Flippo/shutterstock.com
While all electric cars produce much lower tailpipe emissions than conventional vehicles, the source of the electricity powering the electric car can influence the amount of emissions produced. Typically, the geographic area determines the life cycle emissions produced by a given vehicle, as some areas use relatively lower polluting energy sources for energy production than others.
For example, regions that depend heavily on conventional fossil fuels for energy generation reduce the life cycle emissions benefit for PHEVs and EVs, compared to areas where wind and solar energy is more common. Despite this, battery electric vehicles (BEV) still produce less than half of the greenhouse emissions compared to gasoline-powered vehicles, even when considering BEV manufacturing emissions.
Potential Issues with Electric Vehicles
Several aspects of the electric car are areas of concern in determining its true viability as an alternative to gasoline powered vehicle. Despite the long-term cost advantages of owning an electric car, electric models are significantly more expensive than their fuel counterparts.
For example, the 2014 Toyota Prius hybrid model is 43% more expensive than the 2015 petrol-fuelled Ford Fiesta, priced at US $25,335 and US $17,705, respectively. The lack of available and appropriate charging points also pose a problem for electric car users, as not every charging station can power the type of electric car you may have - different makes and models of electric cars require alternative current and direct current connectors, which may not be covered at a certain point. While individuals may be able to charge their car at home, this does not solve the problem of recharging your vehicle throughout the day if the appropriate charging station is not available.
In an effort to address this issue and pursue the integration of electric vehicles into the mainstream, the United Kingdom’s Plugged-In Places initiative has enabled over 8,000 charging points to be present throughout the UK. It is estimated that this number will continue to rise, and by 2020 the UK will have contributed nearly £1 billion towards this effort.
Sources and Further Reading