The future since 1884: Going Electric
It's been 126 years since the first successful electric car (or more accurately, carriage) came out and for the entire time, the journey has been a race between time and tech. Then and now.
History is long and boring but let's keep it at a minimum and go back to 1997 when Toyota introduced the game-changer for the EV industry: the Prius. Mind you, the Prius was and is a hybrid and not exactly an all-electric vehicle. It combined an electric propulsion system with a gasoline combustion engine.
But surrounding it all, is one big fact. Electric cars have zero emission of greenhouse gases and thus contributes to the green future we all want to achieve. However, it's a bit more complicated than that since the production process of these cars and the electricity needed, are often major sources of harmful emissions. In this case, the issue lies with how the electricity is being generated.
This of course varies from area to area because while countries like India and China are heavy on coal based power generation that hugely impact the environment negatively, France and some states of America have moved to cleaner alternatives. California, for instance, runs power grids based on solar and renewable sources that cover about half of the entire area and France gets more than half of their total electricity from nuclear power-plants.
So, the question of whether or not electric cars are really clean is not based on what they are or how they are used but where they are used. Environmental concerns regarding air pollution is nothing new and governments have been trying to solve this issue by promoting and encouraging the production of electric cars.
While going green is fine and dandy, it comes with its costs. Literally. EVs might be around a lot but they are still not in an affordable price range for the mass. Cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Prius have been massively popular but more luxurious options like the Tesla Model S and X and the hybrid BMW i3 or the i8, continue to tear out pockets.
Then comes the range conundrum. At the heart of all electric cars is a battery that needs to be charged. It's just like your phone except that your phone won't drop dead on the highway, 40 kilometers away from your destination, with your now very grumpy family who you were taking on that nice little holiday trip. Or at least you wanted to.
The solution is a series of charging stations spread throughout the area so that you can pull over any time, charge your car and get going. Another brilliant concept that's being developed in the UK are long roadside patches that charge your car when you drive over them. But it's still in R&D phase and will need few years to be applied practically.
Batteries used in EVs have been evolving for over a 100 years and right now lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries rule the market. These have their own perks and problems depending on what materials are used in the electrodes. Alternatively, the use of hydrogen fuel cells in the Toyota Mirai gives us a new look at what's in store for the automotive industry. While this excludes one of the most common problems of plug-in electric vehicles - long periods of charging time - hydrogen requires CO2 emission during production. Thus making the Mirai, not-the-cleanestclean car available.
Despite everything, the harm they cause is considerably less than what comes from the more conventional gasoline options. And thus at the end of the day, electric cars are the future. They reduce air pollution, are quiet, have (relatively) low maintenance costs and reach breath-taking speeds with instant acceleration. As long as we can keep the energy source clean, it goes without a doubt that over the next decade, EVs should own the streets.