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We all see those people driving around in a Tesla or a Prius and automatically think “wow clean energy” or “Zero Emissions,” but are they really helping the environment as much as we think they are? We all love and want an electric car because of the driving we all do, they are the perfect car. The technology for these cars gets better and better every day, for example the new Tesla’s can get up to 370 Miles per charge! That is crazy to think because the average American driver drives an estimates 29.2 miles a day.
When electric vehicles first came out, they were advertised as a way for you to drive around the in your daily commute in an easy efficient way. A way for you to do your daily driving without having to ever fill up at a gas station. Well they are starting to gain popularity and everywhere you look, you now see Electric Vehicles. Electric Vehicles are sleek and quit, they keep our air clean, and for most of the short driving we all do, they’re the perfect way to get from point A to point B safely, reliably, and comfortable. “80% of drivers travel less than 40 miles round trip for their daily commute.” And on top of that on average it only cost about half as much to own an electric vehicle compared to a normal combustion engine.
As an Automotive student here at Weber State University, all of this is stuff we are currently learning. Everyone is always talking about how good Electric Vehicles are and all that. But, in my Chemistry 1010 class, we were talking about where our energy comes from. The energy we use from our day-to-day life. And what struck me was most of our power is produced by fossil fuels, these power plants have been a health concern for the citizens here in Utah. After hearing this, it made me think, if we are so concerned about internal combustion engine cars being bad for our environment why haven’t we thought about power plants, where most of these electric cars get their energy from.
We have all seen that one person in the Tesla driving around with License plates that say, “Zero Emissions,” or “Clean air.” We all look and say dang what a nice car, that has zero emissions and is good for our environment. But, is it really Zero Emissions? Electric vehicles must charge their cars, either at home or at a charging station. All the Electricity that is used to charge the “Zero Emissions” car comes from somewhere, in our case the Utahns. Most of our energy comes from power plants. Power plants have been a major concern to Utah citizens. With Salt Lake City now becoming the place with the lowest quality air in all the United states, this subject is something that we are all now thinking about. In this paper I will be talking about how electric vehicles work, how combustion engines work, how both Internal combustion engines and Electric vehicles contribute to our air pollution, and what is better for our environment.
Electric vehicles have been around since 1832, Robert Anderson develops the first crude electric vehicle, but it isn’t until the 1870s or later that electric vehicles become practical. And in the 1890s the first electric vehicles debut in the United States. Ever since Electric vehicles have become more and more practical. Especially after gas prices start to skyrocket in the United States around the 1970s, Electric vehicles start to become more and more common
Every Electric Vehicle works different. There are three main types of Electric Vehicles. Battery Electric Vehicles, also known as BEVs, PHEVs plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, and PHEVs Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Battery Electric Vehicles are completely powered by By the battery, with no gasoline or diesel on board just a battery which powers the electric motor. Battery Electric Vehicles have high-capacity battery packs which stores all of the electricity on board. The high capacity batter is used to power the electric motor and all of the on-board electronics. Battery electric vehicles emit zero emissions, or any hazardous gases caused by your tradition combustion engines. There are three different levels of chargers for these cars, level 1, level 2, and level 3. Level 1 is a standard 120v plug, where people usually get installed in their house for an overnight charge that last about eight hours long. Level 2 is 240v that will take roughly four hours to charge. And lastly is the Level 3, currently the fastest charging on the Electric Vehicle market. Known as fast chargers and take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour for a full charge. Some Examples of Battery Electric Vehicles are Tesla’s, Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and many more. Next is Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV). Plug-in hybrids are both gasoline or diesel powered and have an electric motor that is powered by a battery that can be recharged by plugging them in. Some plug-in hybrids are cars like the Chevy volt, and the Toyota Prius. Plug in Hybrids are simple, you can drive long distances on just the battery. Once the battery dies it switches over and the conventional engine turns on and the car is now running on gas or diesel depending on the car. Lastly is the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). Hybrid Electric Vehicles are powered by both Electricity and Gasoline. Hybrid Electric Vehicles use somethings called “regenerative Braking” a process where the electric motor helps to slow down the vehicle and uses some of the energy normally converted to heat by the brakes.”
Internal Combustion Engines are what most cars have, they are our gas or diesel vehicles out on the roads. “Internal combustion engines provide outstanding drivability and durability, with more than 250 million highway transportation vehicles in the United States relying on them.” The way they work is simple, Internal Combustion engines use the basic chemical process of releasing energy from a fuel and air mixture. In an internal combustion engine (ICE), the ignition and combustion of the fuel occurs within the engine itself. The combustion inside the cylinders itself is what then in turn turns the engine. The combustion propels down the piston turning the camshaft and then in turn, turning the gears in your transmission and then turning the wheels on your car. There are currently two kinds of internal combustion engines currently in production: the spark ignition gasoline engine and the compression ignition diesel engine. The Spark Ignition gasoline engine introduces gasoline and air as a mixture in the cylinder. The air coming in through the air intake system and gasoline going in with the help of the fuel pump and the injectors. The mixture of air and fuel in the cylinder is then compressed by the piston and then ignited/sparked by the spark plugs causing combustion. The combustion then in turn because of the combustion causes the piston to be pushed down turning the crankshaft. “In a diesel engine, only air is inducted into the engine and then compressed. Diesel engines then spray the fuel into the hot compressed air at a suitable, measured rate, causing it to ignite.”
Everyone is always trying to find a way to help our environment, but we can’t find a good solution. Electric cars were first introduced to help out our environment, at first everyone loved it. Zero emissions and you never have to fill up on gas, sign me up! Everyone was buying Electric vehicles and stopped buying Internal combustion vehicles. Electric cars have some disadvantages, such as: Electric cars rely on electricity, which is mainly generated by fossil energy, which can also generate pollution, or nuclear power. Nobody ever talked about or mentioned, where the electricity was coming from, the one used to charge the Electric Vehicles. Depending on where you live that can be different but here in Utah it is power plants, power plants have been a huge concern to Utah residents. Due the power plants cleaning up their power grid and leaning now towards clean renewable energy, power plants are no longer one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States. Now the leading source of todays greenhouse gasses are cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, and boats. As you can see in the image above Vehicle exhaust accounts for 78.69% of the air pollution here in the state of Utah. Big difference compared to the other 13% from Refineries and large industrial facilities. On average the cost to own a Electric vehicle is half the price of a normal Internal Combustion Engine, even though up front it will cost more. At Weber State we have Tesla Model S as a research vehicle. I interviewed one of my professors Blair Newborn, who currently looks over the Tesla more then anyone. I asked him what he thinks is more convenient driving on a daily basis, and Blair’s response was, “if you convert the Watt Hour per mile to MPGe, most Electric Vehicles like the Tesla Model S can average 107 to 115 MPGe. Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts and require much less routine maintenance. Ride quality is comparable if not better than comparable gas-powered vehicles. Tesla vehicles have a very low center of gravity because the battery and drive motors sit so close to the ground.”
Internal Combustion Engines is what has been around since the mid-1800s. We all have relied on them to get us from point A to point B, businesses using them to power big semi-trucks to deliver their products. Internal Combustion Engines are what we all love and with out them our lives would be a mess, having to walk or bike everywhere.
Lately everyone has been targeting Internal Combustion Engines because of all the Exhaust fumes such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) they release. Over the past thirty years Internal Combustion Engines have been becoming way better. Manufactures have reduced Internal Combustion Engine emissions of criteria pollutants like NOx and PM by more than 99% to comply with the EPA emission standards. Although Internal Combustion Engines have improved significantly, they still are not as efficient as Electric Vehicles are. Blair Newborn said, “If you take our Model S and compare it with a gas-powered sedan of the same size, the gas-powered sedan will pollute 10 times more over the course of the vehicle life. Also, Electric Vehicles emit zero tailpipe emissions. From an air quality standpoint and an overall environmental standpoint, Electric Vehicles are much better than gas-powered vehicles.”
Now that you have read this, what will you now think when you see an Electric car? “Zero Emissions,” or “still is bad for our environment because of the Power Plants.” Regardless of what you now think we have come to the Conclusion that although Electric Vehicles are technically not zero emissions because of the power plants. It is still way better than your average vehicle. Electric vehicles are simple they have a battery that usually is located low and underneath the car to have a low center of gravity. That battery than in turn is used to power the electric motor that is used to rotate the wheels. These cars are amazing if your goal is to daily drive it or even to race it. When daily driving an Electric vehicle you get an average of 100 miles per charge, depending on what model you have. And that is way more than what is needed for your average American who usually commutes roughly 29.2 miles a day. If you have power at your house you can charge over night and be ready to drive again the next morning. Electric cars in specific Teslas, with a 0-60 mph in just 2.4 seconds in the Tesla Model S Performance. Electric cars will be the future of racing, with no having to worry about traction, or having to wait for your rpms in your average car to go up. Computers can think and react way faster than we can, when you floor it in a Internal Combustion Engine car you either have to much power and just end up spinning your wheels, or having to wait for your rpms to get up to go faster. Electric cars don’t have rpms, they are either on or off. Instant torque and instant traction control.
Internal Combust Engines are what we all know and grew up with. Although they cant keep up with the emissions electric cars have, they will still be heavily used in the upcoming years. Diesel engines are what all semi-trucks use to haul items across the country because of how powerful those engines are. Unlike Electric cars that take 30 minutes to 8 hours to charge, diesel- and gas-powered vehicles only take minutes to fill up the tank and we are back on the road. Beneficial for people who travel a lot or have to haul heavy items.
Electric vehicles defiantly have a long way to go to match up with some of the performances of Internal Combustion Engines. Electric vehicles continue to improve and become more user friendly for all types of driving. And lastly they are better than our Internal Combustion Engines. As long as we keep the power plants running clean and use wind and solar power, we will be doing better for our mother nature. As Blair said, “I feel that electric vehicles will continue to increase in popularity and US Electric Vehicle sales will continue to increase.”
If you have the money go Electric, they are ten times better for our environment. They are expensive up front but on the long run are cheaper to own and will be better for the environment compared to an Internal Combustion Engine. Invest in a in home charging station where you can charge over night and you will be set for your daily driving commute. And lastly below is graph I found from the U.S Department of Energy. As you can see here in the state of Utah is best for you to drive a Hybrid. Hybrids release the least amount of CO2 annually compared to its other competitors.
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