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Electric Vehicles: The Future of Transportation

Last Updated on March 17, 2024 by Admin

This article explains to you how electric cars and electric vehicles work, how eco-friendly they are, and whether they’re the future of global transportation.

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The way we travel is changing. With technological advances and a desperate need for greater sustainability, vehicles are becoming cleaner and more intelligent. But are electric vehicles the future of transport?

In this post, we’ll explore electric vehicles and how they work. We’ll also examine their sustainability and whether they’re the solution for the eco-friendly transport of the future.

What are electric vehicles? 

Let’s start with a definition of an electric vehicle. Vehicles are used to transport vehicles or goods, whether on land, water, or air. An electric vehicle (also known as an EV) is a vehicle that is powered by electricity, usually in the form of electric motors powered by batteries or fuel cells.

Image: Electric CAR 

When we see this definition, it’s easy to think only of things like electric cars. However, electric vehicles include other road transport (trucks, bikes, and buses), planes, and boats.

You’ll often see various types of electric vehicles fit under this term. This includes:

  • All-electric vehicles. In this electric vehicle, the battery is the only power source.
  • Hybrid vehicles use a combustion engine with an electric motor that recharges when the vehicle is in motion.
  • Plug-in hybrids. These also combine combustion engines with rechargeable batteries, which can be recharged directly.
  • Fuel-cell vehicles generate electricity from onboard fuels such as hydrogen. They don’t need to plug into an electrical outlet to recharge.

You can learn more about low-carbon road transport with our free online course from experts at Cenex.

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A brief history of electric vehicles 

Electric cars and other vehicles feel very much like present and future concepts. New technologies and legislation mean that manufacturers worldwide are paying attention to fully or partially electric fleets. But the thought of using electricity to power transport dates back well over 100 years.

Throughout the 19th century, various experiments with electric vehicles took place. The first battery-powered electric motor was invented by Thomas Davenport in 1834, and over the following decades, different scientists and engineers tinkered with the design.

Electric carriages, trams, and trains emerged in the mid to late 1800s. However, the main issue with these vehicles was that the batteries used weren’t rechargeable, making them impractical for commercial use.

The details of the first electric cars are often debated. Some suggest that the first self-powered, human-carrying electric vehicle was created by French inventor Gustave Trouvé in 1881. However, it’s widely agreed that Thomas Parker first developed the electric car in London in 1884.

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Electric cars soon became incredibly popular, particularly in the US. Many cars on the road in the early 1900s were electric. However, the large-scale production of Ford’s petrol cars and the increasingly affordable oil price soon meant that electric vehicles couldn’t compete.

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It wasn’t until the 1970s that interest in electric vehicle technology was renewed when vehicles such as the CitiCar were produced. In the mid-1990s, General Motors launched the EV1, and the Toyota Prius became the first mass-produced hybrid car.

Power and range issues remained until the late 2000s when Tesla launched its first Roadster. Nowadays, most major manufacturers have electric or hybrid vehicles in their range, and battery manufacturing is better than ever.

Current electric vehicle technology 

So, electric vehicles have been around longer than you might think. But what is the current technology like? Aside from electric cars (we’ll cover them further down), there are several unique forms of electric transportation:

  • Logistics vehicles. From large trucks to freight handling, there is a range of companies creating electric logistics vehicles. However, the view was that electric batteries for freight vehicles would be expensive and impractical. New studies suggest that a better charging network could solve the problem.
  • Public transport. Electric buses are already hugely popular in China, while Europe is picking up the pace of adoption. In the UK, around 38% of the railway network is electrified. Electric trams are also famous worldwide.
  • Aircraft. Electric aircraft technology is still in its infancy. According to some experts, modern passenger planes would ‘need batteries weighing 30 times more than its current fuel intake, meaning it would never get off the ground’.However, progress is being made, and electric planes do exist.
  • Boats. Battery power is also a problem for electric boats. The limited power is problematic, particularly for larger vehicles and longer trips. However, prototypes are starting to emerge that prove that EVs can exist in many different formats.

How do electric cars work? 

Let’s examine electric cars in more detail and consider some key questions surrounding them. We’ll focus on fully electric cars rather than hybrids or plug-in hybrids.

We’ll keep this explanation simple here, covering some of the basics. Electric cars use an electric motor to power the vehicle’s wheels. These motors get their energy from batteries usually placed low down in the car. There is often also an additional battery that powers the electricity, lights, and other such elements.

The batteries in electric cars are rechargeable and can be charged from the electricity grid. This means a wall-mounted or fast charger (such as those at service stations) is required.

Of course, electric cars must control how much power they draw from the batteries to power the motor. A control unit is used for this task. Essentially, this uses the accelerator to determine how much power is needed, mimicking the feel of a combustion engine.

You can learn more about battery storage and technology with our free online course.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

There are a few variables to consider when it comes to electric car charging. The first is the type of battery used – most use a Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, although the capacity will often differ. Next is the charging used – a standard home 7kW charging point will be much slower than a rapid 150kW one.

For example, the 2019 Tesla Model S has a 75kWh battery. Estimates suggest it will take 11 hours to recharge fully using a 7kW charger but less than an hour using a 150kW charger.

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

Again there are several factors to consider when it comes to the cost of charging an electric car. As well as the cost of the electricity in units (a kilowatt-hour or kWh), you need to consider the size of the battery.

In the UK, the average cost is 10-14 pence per kWh. So again, taking the Tesla Model S as an example, its battery can hold 100kWh of charge. At 10p per kWh, it would cost £10 to charge the battery fully.

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How long do electric car batteries last?

There are two ways to look at this question. The first is the electric car range – how far a car can travel on a full charge. As you might expect, this also varies depending on the vehicle and the type of battery. However, the average is around 200 miles, with the Tesla Model S reaching 345 miles and the Nissan Leaf reaching 135 miles.

The other consideration is the lifespan of EV batteries. Electric cars’ batteries become less efficient over time, meaning they eventually hold less charge. However, industry stats predict that most electric car batteries will last between 10 and 20 years before replacing.

Can electric vehicles create sustainable transport? 

As we explored in our posts of reducing your carbon footprint and greenhouse gases, transport accounts for around one-fifth of global CO2 emissions. What’s more, nearly 75% of these emissions come from road vehicles.

There is a need for more eco-friendly transport and energy systems around the world. So how sustainable are electric vehicles? And what is their impact on the environment?

As we look at these questions, there are once again several considerations. As such, we’ll cover each one in more detail:

How sustainable are electric vehicles? 

One of the most significant benefits of electric cars and other vehicles is that they produce zero emissions when they’re running. There is no combustion process, no fuel is burned, and no CO2 emissions are released into the atmosphere.

Of course, these vehicles still require electricity to charge the batteries. And the crucial question when it comes to sustainability and climate change is where this electricity comes from. The power from wind turbines, solar panels, or other renewable energy sources is generally pretty clean. However, in many areas of the world, energy is produced by burning fossil fuels.

What is the environmental impact?

There are other issues beyond usage emissions. Making electric cars, particularly lithium-ion batteries, can be quite an energy-intensive process. Some studies suggest, for example, that over a third of lifetime electric car CO2 emissions come from energy used to make the car.

For electric cars to be more eco-friendly, manufacturing processes, battery recycling, and efficiency must improve. That being said, a 2018 report from the UK government concluded that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) ‘have substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional vehicles, even when taking into account the electricity source and the electricity used for battery production.’

How to Choose an Electric Vehicle?

Choosing an electric vehicle (EV) involves considering various factors to find the one that best suits your needs, lifestyle, and budget. Here are key points to guide you in selecting the right EV:

Determine Your Range Needs: Consider how far you drive daily and whether the EV’s maximum range per charge covers your average distance. Think about longer trips you may take and whether there are charging stations along the route.

Consider Charging Options:

    • Assess the availability of public charging stations in your area and along your regular routes.
    • Explore home charging options. Installing a Level 2 charger at home can significantly reduce charging times compared to using a standard outlet.

Evaluate Vehicle Size and Type: Determine the size and type of vehicle that best fits your needs. EVs are available in various forms, including sedans, SUVs, and trucks. Consider cargo space, passenger capacity, and whether the vehicle supports your lifestyle (e.g., outdoor activities, city driving).

Assess Performance and Features:

    • Compare acceleration, handling, and comfort level. Some EVs offer high performance, while others focus on efficiency and practicality.
    • Look for features that matter to you, such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), infotainment systems, and interior quality.

Research Incentives and Total Cost of Ownership:

    • Check for federal, state, and local incentives to lower the purchase price.
    • Consider the total cost of ownership, including electricity costs, maintenance (typically lower for EVs), and insurance.

Read Reviews and Test Drive:

    • Look up reviews from professionals and current owners to understand the pros and cons of each model.
    • Test drive multiple vehicles to get a feel for their performance, comfort, and features. This can significantly influence your decision.

Understand Battery Life and Warranty:

    • Check the warranty coverage for the battery, as it’s a crucial component of the EV. Battery performance can degrade over time, affecting range.
    • Research the vehicle’s battery’s longevity and any manufacturer’s provisions for battery replacement or refurbishment.

Consider Future Proofing: Technology in the EV sector is rapidly evolving. Opt for a vehicle with updatable software to remain current with the latest features and improvements.

Brand and Community Support: Some EV brands have a strong community presence, offering additional support, tips, and shared knowledge from experienced owners. This can be beneficial for first-time EV owners.

Environmental Considerations: If your primary motivation is environmental, compare the life-cycle carbon footprint of different EVs, including how the electricity that powers them is generated.

By carefully considering these points, you’ll be better equipped to choose an electric vehicle that meets your needs and contributes to a more sustainable future.

Are electric vehicles the future of global transportation? 

So, can electric vehicles be the eco-friendly transport solution for the future? Many countries appear to be making policies based on the fact that electric cars, at least, may be the future. What’s more, according to researchers at Wood Mckenzie, electric car sales are expected to reach 45 million per year by 2040, creating a total global EV stock of 323 million.

However, there are challenges with electric vehicles. Battery technology has come a long way in recent years, but for larger vehicles, in particular, the power output isn’t yet quite enough to make them viable.

Similarly, emissions related to the production of lithium-ion batteries need addressing, and recycling of these components also needs to improve.

Electric vehicles have the potential to reduce emissions and help to address climate change. And, we will likely see them replace combustion engines in many instances. However, it needs an effort across many different areas to create a sustainable future. Finally, electric vehicles need to be powered by renewable energy sources to be truly effective.

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Final Reflections

Electric vehicles (EVs) offer numerous advantages, including lower emissions, reduced fuel costs, and fewer moving parts, which means less maintenance. As the electric automotive industry continues to evolve, the best EVs on the market are becoming more affordable, offering longer ranges and faster charging times. By 2024, electric cars are expected to have advanced significantly, with improved battery technology and infrastructure support.

Electric cars represent a significant segment of the EV market, known for their efficiency and innovation. They come in various models, catering to different preferences and needs. The list of electric vehicles extends beyond cars to include electric bikes, which are gaining popularity for their convenience and environmental benefits.

There are many electric vehicles for sale, ranging from budget-friendly models to luxury options. Independent electric car companies are also emerging, bringing fresh ideas and competition. These companies contribute to a diverse market, offering consumers various choices.

The types of electric vehicles include battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), each with its unique benefits and considerations. While electric cars present numerous advantages, it’s essential to acknowledge their disadvantages, such as range limitations and the current scarcity of charging stations in some areas.

For more in-depth information, electric vehicles PDF resources are available online. These resources provide detailed analyses and insights into the industry’s current state and future prospects. They cover various topics, from technological advancements to market trends, helping enthusiasts and potential buyers make informed decisions.

FAQs

What Are the 4 Types of Electric Vehicles?

The four main types of electric vehicles are Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), each varying in their use of electric motors and energy sources.

What Is Called an Electric Vehicle?

An electric vehicle (EV) is a vehicle that is powered either fully or partially by electricity, using one or more electric motors for propulsion, rather than a traditional internal combustion engine.

What Are the Benefits of Electric Vehicles?

Benefits of electric vehicles include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, lower operating costs, decreased dependency on fossil fuels, high energy efficiency, and quieter operation.

What Technology Is Used in Electric Vehicles?

Electric vehicles use a variety of technologies, including lithium-ion batteries for energy storage, electric motors for propulsion, regenerative braking systems, and advanced materials to reduce weight and improve efficiency.

Which Company Electric Car Is Best?

The best electric car company can vary based on consumer preferences, vehicle performance, range, and affordability. Leading manufacturers include Tesla, Nissan, Chevrolet, and BMW, among others. Each offers models with different features and benefits.

Who Is Number 1 in Electric Vehicles?

Tesla, Inc., is often credited with the leading position in electric vehicles due to its pioneering role in the market, extensive range of electric models, and significant contributions to EV technology and infrastructure development.

How Much Is the Cheapest Electric Car?

The price of the cheapest electric car varies by market and availability. Entry-level models can start at around $30,000 or less in some regions before government incentives or rebates are applied.

What Are the 5 Pros of Electric Cars?

Five pros of electric cars are 1) Lower emissions contributing to environmental sustainability, 2) Reduced fuel and maintenance costs, 3) Tax incentives and rebates, 4) High energy efficiency, and 5) Instant torque and smooth acceleration.

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