Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Environmental demand for cleaner air has put a heavy burden on the automobile, much improved by stringent exhaust stands but still a significant source of pollution. High cost, technological obstacles and the resistance of the public to abandon gasoline have deterred the discovery of new cleaner alternative fuels to help 5the environment. Electric Vehicles are the cleanest burning of the alternative fuel vehicles now available. They are an efficient way to utilize fossil fuels (oil and natural gas) and convert them straight into automotive power. The fossil fuels are burnt at a power plant to produce energy to make electricity to recharge batteries rather than being used in air polluting internal combustion engines. (Encarta)3 Substances that pollute the air can be controlled more easily at a power plant than at the tailpipes of millions of gasoline-burning cars. (Encarta) Electric cars are a simple and effective way to harness existing energy because any energy source can be turned into electricity. Electric cars have many advantages:
Less dependence on foreign oil because of a reduction of petroleum requirements
Reduction in maintenance costs
Simplicity of operation
Improvement in air quality because of elimination of vehicle exhaust emissions
Low energy cost (Barbara Whitener 9)
Despite these advantages electric cars have not been widely adapted yet because they are not able to compete with gasoline powered cars. They have many limitations including power, acceleration, reliability and range. All of this however is about to change when the next line of EVs are released. GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Daimler-Chrysler and Even the U.S. Army are in on the race because electric will be one of the leading alternative fuels in the near future.
Electric vehicles may have appeared as early as 1830. Historians generally credit J.K. Starley, an English inventor and Fred M. Kimball of Boston, Massachusetts with building the first practical electric car in 1888. Woods Motor Vehicle Company located in Chicago become the first American Producer in 1896. At one time, around 1904 one third of all the cars in New York City, Chicago and Boston were electrically powered. By 1912 thirty thousand electric vehicles roamed the United States. These cars are starting to surface again in anticipation of regulations designed to reduce air pollution emission in some states.
Many breakthroughs have been made in this field but some designs have stayed similar. An electric car has a battery, a charger for replenishing the batterys power and a controller, which directs the flow of electricity between the battery and the motor. Lead Acid batteries are the most commonly used battery in the new fleet of EVs arriving, but there are new types of batteries including nickel-metal hydride, zinc-chlorine and sodium-sulfur. Todays electric cars come standard with regenerative breaking. Regenerative breaking is where the braking system recharges the battery. The motor acts as a generator when stopping and converts the energy caused by the movement of the vehicle back into electricity and stores it in the battery. Converting the kinetic energy into electric energy slows the car. (Encarta, 1999)
GM has come through with a breakthrough design. The second generation of their EV. It has no engine because it doesnt need one. No tailpipe because it has no exhaust. It has no valves, no pistons, no timing belts or crankshaft. The EV is a zero emission vehicle. Therefore it requires no emissions testing. It requires no tune-ups; no gasoline or oil changes either. The EV seems childish because it is so simplistic; but in actually it is one of the most complex pieces of machinery on the road today. The GM EV uses a 26 valve- regulated high capacity lead-acid (PbA) battery. The EV has an estimated real world driving range of 55 to 95 miles. GM is now making a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batter pack as another option. With this new option the EVs estimated real world driving range is increased to 75-130 miles on a full charge. Charging can be done in any weather for the GM EV uses a 220-volt charger that has to be installed in your home. Charging from 0 to 100% for the lead-acid battery pack takes up to 6 hours. The nickel-metal hydride battery pack can take up to 8 hours to fully recharge due