Electronic Cars – The Future

Overview

Electronic vehicles (EV) are modes of transport that use electricity as their primary source of power. Despite their existence for most of the 20th century they have often struggled commercially in contrast to their competitors that use other sources of fuel, especially fossil fuels such as petrol. However, in recent years mass interest in electronic sources of power has revived worldwide, especially with regards to the electric car.

Electricity sources

The sources of electricity for modes of EV transport are variable. Some utilise overhead electric lines and take their power directly from these, others chemically store their power in a battery which must be recharged in between journeys. In addition to this some EV’s utilise other sources of electric energy such as solar power or nuclear energy.

Popular vehicle types

Electric car – Electric cars are one of the oldest forms of electronically powered vehicle. Stated advantages are low energy costs, quieter motors and a zero direct carbon emissions, the latter being particularly attractive in regions suffering significant problems with pollution produced by gasoline vehicles. Traditionally stated disadvantages are the lack of range available in between recharges and poor engine power and acceleration available to the driver, as well as the lack of infrastructure worldwide that would support the majority of journeys. Electric cars can be both solely powered by battery or by a hybrid system in which a conventional fuel motor works alongside an electric motor to dramatically improve energy efficiency.

Electric train – Like their cousins the electric car, electric locomotives may attain or store their power in a variety of ways. Most conventionally electric trains are powered by overhead cables that they are run beneath, although some use a duel source of power, such as diesel/electric trains. As with cars they are praised for their lack of pollution compared to diesel locomotives, both in terms of air quality and noise. Further to this, regenerative breaking allows for kinetic energy to be converted into electric energy while a locomotive is slowing down on many models. The use of electric trains worldwide is patchy with Europe leading the way. Many governments object to the installation of electric infrastructure on their existing railways for reasons of cost.

Electric bus
– EV buses are either powered by overhead cables, as with the electric tram or some models of electric locomotive, or by battery power. Electric busses are used worldwide and are being extensively trialled in China where they are rapidly repowered at their stops before being fully recharged at their terminus.

Future prospects for EVs

Electronic vehicles are receiving a considerable amount of attention worldwide at present, largely thanks to the environmental agenda that has come to dominate international politics. Governments are playing a role too and are increasingly incentivising the purchase and construction of EV modes of transport. For example, from 2011 the UK government hope to be able to offer cash incentives of up to £5,000 for all those who want to switch to a fully electric or hybrid model of car. As of July 2009 Nissan has announced plans to boost production of electric cars that are charged wirelessly, a significant advantage as a guardian poll suggests that 61% of potential electric car owners are worried by the inconvenience of charging. In the US the government has announced 41.5 billion in grants to US manufacturers to further research into highly efficient batteries. Further to this, the prospects for electric trains worldwide are relatively good. In late June 2009 the UK government shelved plans to purchase more diesel trains and instead opted to invest in electrifying existing lines at considerable cost with the aim of reducing carbon emissions from transport by 14% by 2020. In short, the prospects for AV vehicles are extremely healthy worldwide as countries seek to provide sustainable and responsible forms of clean transport for their citizens.

This article is also available on TJC Oxford.

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