EVs: Future present?
In a world accustomed to ear-filling pops and bangs, will quiet whizzles ever take over?
The idea of this investigation is to present the advantages and disadvantages, as well as the future development of Electric Vehicles. We'll be talking about a broad variety of topics, going from energy consumption, R&D and pricing to, evidently, speed.
As usual, one cannot go rambling about something without having some knowledge about it, and the case with EVs is usually one of the most frequent cases in the car community, so, to help out readers, let's take a look at the role of EVs throughout the history of cars.
Some gentlemen in an EV of sorts from the 1900's
EVs have been with us for more than 40 years now, but it is just now that they are starting to take off in the automotive world, mainly because they do not produce any emissions of any type or sound. Those early EVs presented a lack of power and capacity, not being able to carry more than two people around was (and still is) kind of a big deal, but, at the time, an EV was better than having to use a horse to move around the city.
Around 1890, EVs were dominating the automobile market, outnumbering petrol cars by a whopping 9-1, meaning that for every ten cars on the street, 9 were EVs, and only one was a petrol powered car. These old EVs had some advantages when pitted against petrol or steam cars: There was no need to use a handle to ignite the engine, a labor that could be very dangerous at times, or the fact that the first car dealers were only dedicated to solely selling EVs. Also, these cars were limited to a city-only speed of no more than 32kmh. Notice too, that these cars were also oriented to a feminine public –actually, the first car to ever be bought by a woman was an EV, to my surprise- because they offered a clean, smooth and easy driving experience.
In these moments, the automobile market had three choices, petrol, EV, or steam. The latter presented a huge problem in relation to the startup: When using them in winter, one had to idle for 45 minutes, wasting liters of water. At the time, the automotive market was separated by 33% petrol cars, 33% EVs, 33% steam cars, and the remaining 1% was old-fashioned horses. For reference, New York City was going through a huge pollution problem with the horses: 1133.98 tons of manure together with 227124l of urine had to be removed from the streets, not to mention the 15000 dead horses that had to be somehow disposed. On winter, EVs were the reigning vehicles because they were the only ones that performed well on the streets. Fast forwarding to the second half of the twentieth century, EVs were under the radar until the decade of the 90’s, when the state of California launched its ZEV policy (Zero Emissions Vehicle) and that’s when GM and Toyota, with the EV-1 and the Prius respectively, took the task relaunching the hybrid-electric market in their own matters.
Research & Development
The NextEV NIO EP9 is a perfect example of whqt is possible when R&D is in the right hands
Development on the vital electric motor dates all the way back to 1828, when Anyos Jedlik invents it, but Jedlik didn't utilise it in cars, he just had it as a display piece. Jedlik was also no stranger to famed inventions, as he was the uncredited inventor of the dynamo.
It wasn’t until circa 1850 that British, French, and from the United States begun to develop the first practical EVs. After those years, they achieved lots of achievements with EVs, such as the following: The first race in the was won by an EV, the US’s first car dealer sold only EVs, and, as we said before, the first car to be bought by a woman was an EV.
The EV decadence begun in 1908, when Henry Ford changed the world with the release of the iconic Ford Model T, when it was launched, it was a huge sales hit. Because of the low price (at that time), people were able to own a car by spending a mere 650$ on average, whilst the EV was averaging a much higher 1750$, in the end, EVs were almost fully extinct by the 1930’s.
It wasn’t until 1975 that they came back, when the North American government launched the “Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act”, which allowed the energy department to invest on the EV's R&D, main reason, you ask? The devastating oil crisis that the world was suffering.
Even the NASA itself helped with this after successfully using the moon Rover while being fully electric. Anyways, EVs had some problems, their top speed was of only 72kph, with a range of only 64km. As a comparison, the fastest cars for 1974 and 1975 were the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona (280 km/h) and the Lamborghini Countach LP400 (288 km/h), respectively.
I'd much rather have an EV over this, said no one ever
For the 90's, the interest in EVs had gone back to almost nil, until, as previously said, California released their ZEV policy. With this, manufacturers started to produce conversion kits from ICE to EV for their model lineup, this meant a much closer performance to IC cars, and their range improved significantly, going from the short 64km to a much more respectable 100km.
One of the most famed vehicles of this time was GM’s EV-1, what they did was, instead of preparing a conversion kit for any of their brands (Chevy, HUMMER, GMC...) they developed a whole new car, that was also their only car to wear the GM logo on the car, not one of the other brands. The EV-1’s performance boasted a range of 128km and a 0-80kmh time of 7 seconds (not bad actually), but due to maintenance costs, it was discontinued in 2001 after three generations. According to the people on energy.gov “There were two major points that helped the EVs rebirth, the first of them being the presentation of the Prius by Toyota in 1997 and the announcement of a new startup company in 2006, Tesla Motors".
Tesla rose to the spotlightwith the announcement of a fully electric vehicle that was able to travel 310km with only one full charge, in 2010 Tesla received a 465$ million loan to research, a debt that they paid off nine years before the agreed deadline”. During the following years, the automotive development office of the energy department invested more than 115$ million towards building a nationwide infrastructure that could support EVs. In total, more than 18000 charging points were installed including domestic, public and commercial ones, with manufacturers also building their own ones, raising the number to over 20000 stations throughout more than 8000 locations in the US, at the same time that new batteries were being developed by the energy dept.
To incentive the EV development, ex-US president Barack Obama launched a program called “EV Everywhere Grand Challenge”.
This chart compares pricing, range and the power the car tested. (Data from 2016)
Many EVs have a near 100km range, whilst petrol cars (taking the Audi A5 as an example) have almost 1000km of travel distance, considering that the average person travels around 60-70km per day, EVs are a good choice. You also have to consider the cost of having your tank filled up, plus driving to the station and back, whilst charging the EV is as simple as plugging it in and you’re done.
But there’s a catch, if you run out of fuel, you will almost certainly have a fuel station near you, this is not the same with EVs, if you run out of batteries, you’re in a small big problem. A big problem with EVs is that the batteries are in full control of the car, this is different in ICE cars, where the batteries are in charge of way fewer things. Of course, there are ways to improve the range, such as driving with your A/C off or driving more moderately and not that aggressively.
A Tesla Model S P85D's gauge cluster, notice how the energy consuption graph goes up when pushe
Just like with a petrol car, EVs don't really have a lot of places in which the top speed can be reached, and instead, owners have to resort to manufacturer claims. On an EV, however, things are different, because if you were to attempt reaching that top speed, sudden battery drainage and relying on how charged the battery is at the moment of attempting it.
Despite those two issues, not everything is bad, as the use of electric power has two very important advantages that, mainly, aid with acceleration:
Having peak torque available from the get-go, paired with a lack of gears, and you get smooth and uninterrupted acceleration.
Drivetrain losses are considerably lower in an EV, even though the same energy that powers the car powers the rest of the functions. To set an example, let's say we have an engine producing 200bhp. For a petrol car, an average of 6% (12hp) is lost through the drivetrain. This is very different on EVs, as the efficiency of those powertrains is close to nil.
Don’t be tricked by this, though, as aggressive driving can cause very scary situations, as proved by Motor Trend, when they were setting a lap time in the Tesla Model S P95D, they lost a lot of brake pressure near the end of the course, and I guess that we all agree on the fact that losing brake pressure when going 125mph is not a great feeling right?
The Regera is a perfect combination of the best of both worlds, skyhigh levels of power, and staggering acceleration and efficiency
With all the pollution problems our world is going through, EVs will certainly get more important, leaving ICE cars in the past. At the rate we're consuming fossil fuels, ICEs certainly won't stick around for much longer. We will inevitably have to cut down on the reliance on petroleum, or maybe even leave petroleum only for motorsport, who knows. Like it or not, EVs are an ever-growing market, and since we all know history repeats itself, you or I won’t be able to see it, but EVs are going to reign the roads back as they did in the 1900’s.
[Writer's note: The article you just read is a translated version of a research task I was given at school in 2016, so all the data is from that year. If you wish to read the original article in Spanish you can find it here. Thanks for bearing with me on this article, I like to think that reading 1400 words is not an easy task]
Make sure to let me know what to improve and if you liked it (or not) in the comments below!
This was Drivetriber Agus García and, until then, peace out!