Electric this and electric that, what do we chose? What is what?
So many new means of transportation are introduced to consumers, it is easy to lose track of what we should be paying attention to.
So what will it be, pure electric vehicles (EV), hybrids, hydrogen, solar? Come to think about it, what is an electric car? In its strictest sense, an electric car is a vehicle that uses electricity as a means to propel itself through electric engines. With that definition you have different types of means of producing electricity for the engines, turbine, gas engine, hydrogen or solar power and of course storing electricity in batteries.
There are pros and cons to each system.
Gas is available albeit expensive, pollutes but less than traditional gas engine in a hybrid configuration. A gas engine can drive an alternator, store electricity in batteries and then to the engines. Turbines works about the same way as gas but consumes a lot.
Hydrogen is an interesting technology, mostly used for space flight technology. According to Wikipedia: “The power plants of such vehicles convert the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical energy (torque) in one of two methods: combustion, or electrochemical conversion in a fuel-cell:
- In combustion, the hydrogen is burned in engines in fundamentally the same method as traditional gasoline (petrol) cars.
- In fuel-cell conversion, the hydrogen is reacted with oxygen to produce water and electricity, the latter of which is used to power an electric traction motor.
Both hydrogen system, combustion or fuel-cell are great for pollution, they only give out water vapor. However, it is not the most efficient means of producing electricity. You can lose up to a third of the energy converting hydrogen to electricity. The problem with hydrogen is the expensive infrastructure we need to have in order to deliver it to cars.
Solar power is probably the cleanest as it captures the rays of the sun and powers its engines. You can have a battery pack to store energy.
Battery power is probably the most promising for the distant future. Battery technology has increased exponentially as gas price force people to look for alternative transportation, it forces the interests of car manufacturers. With the introduction of Lithium batteries, they now last longer, are lighter and recharge quicker than conventional ones. As far as infrastructure, electricity is readily available everywhere and charging stations are cropping up in parking spots.
We are still at the beginning of these new technologies and each look promising. Some are great gaps until we find a pure electrical source, other require great infrastructure. However most are a definite positive step for a brighter, clearer future.