The combustion engine was developed morethan a hundred years ago. It still works with the same principle: burning fuelto get power. However, burning fuel consumes natural resources and additionallygenerates carbon dioxide gas which leads to global warming. The country’s second-largest source of carbon pollution is the transportationsector, which generates about1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year (National Resources Defense Council). Currently, environmental protection is abig issue in public discussions.
Global warming seems to be the number oneproblem which we can hear in the news almost daily. Scientists are convincedthat global warming is caused by an increasing amount of carbon dioxide in ouratmosphere. Thecarbon-dioxide levels started to rise all the way back after the industrialrevolution, however, these levels convulsed with the invention of the firstcapable large-scale production vehicle.
Researchers of the National Aeronauticsand Space Administration (NASA) have discovered a 223% increase in theatmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 1950 to 2017 (fig.1). Overlaying the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere shows a clearcorrelation with the rise in temperatures (fig. 2). Carbon dioxide, methane, soot,and other pollutants that get released into the atmosphere trap the sun’s heatand cause the planet to heat up. (NationalClimate Assessment).Research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)calculated a temperature rise of 2.
5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next hundredyears (NASA).Anaverage rise of 6.25 degrees Fahrenheit might seem insignificant, however, itwill and already has severe consequences such as severe weather conditions,dirtier air, more acidic oceans, and higher sea levels. In2015, for example, scientists have ascertained that the drought in California,which was the state’s worst water shortage in almost1200 years, had been intensified by roughly 20 percent as an effect of globalwarming.
Furthermore, theprobability of a comparable drought happening in the near future has almostdoubled over the past one hundred years. Asidefrom the consequences on land, global warming affects the sea simultaneously. Accordingto National Geographic, Core samples, tide gauge readings, and, most recently, satellitemeasurements have displayed a rise in the Global Sea Level (GSL) by 4 to 8inches, although the average rise has not been higher than 0.13 inches yearly forthe last 20 years(National Geographic). Thisrise is mainly created by thermal expansion, which means that water expands asit heats up, and melting of glaciers and polar ice caps.
Naturally, they melt backa few inches each year. The snowfall in winter should normally suffice to counteractthe melting. As of recently, the increasing temperature caused by globalwarming has an increasing effect in summer melting and lesser snowfall. Thisimbalance results in an increased rate of glacier evaporation, causing the sealevels to rise.Ultimately,the rise in sea level can have destructive impacts on the surrounding land andecosystem. If storms hit land, higher sea levels mean bigger, more powerfulstorms, that have incredible destructive potential.
Furthermore, millions ofpeople living in areas that will become vulnerable to flooding would be forced toabandon their homes. Shallow-lying islands could be subsided completely.Toantagonize that process of global warming we need to consider a different formof power for our vehicles.
One way of decreasing the CO2 emission is theconversion to fully electric vehicles. Visionaries like Elon Musk are currentlyworking on ways make electric cars more approachable for the extensivepopulation, but due to huge disadvantages, they were sold only in very smallamounts. These disadvantages were: a very high cost of the batteries, very lowrange and extremely long charging times. However,as technology evolve, those disadvantages will disappear. Based on the currentspeed of the technical development, it is likely that in a few years there willbe only electric vehicles and no one will use combustion cars anymore.
Thiswould help a lot in reducing carbon dioxide pollution and therefore reduce theglobal warming.Buthow can we accomplish that goal? Why would people buy an electric instead of aconventional vehicle? First of all, the range of an electric car has to becompetitive. Therefore, the battery capacities have to be increasedsignificantly. Most of today’s electricvehicles have ranges of about 50 – 80 miles, which make them only usable forurban traveling or commuting.
But ranges are growing. Tesla Motors, forexample, has shown, thatlarge ranges are achievable with today’s batterytechnology. The Tesla Model S, for example, has a range between 240 – 270miles, and with the ongoing research in battery technology, these ranges willincrease further, leading to better usability of electric cars. Secondly,it is necessary that the charging time of an electric vehicle will be muchshorter than today. For most customers, it is not acceptable to wait hours fora full charge while a gasoline car can be refilled in minutes. Currently, Teslais able to shorten the charging time to less than 30 minutes per about 170miles of range.
That’s already a big step into a bettersuitability for daily use. Tesla developed this “Supercharger” network to allowfar distance driving without having to use a combustion car for vacation trips etc. That’s why theydeployed lots of charging stations around the cities and near freeways toprovide enough energy for long trips. But these charging times are still toolong for many customers who want to be able to travel as fast as with today’scars. Porsche recently announced that with their Mission-E vehicle, which issupposed to hit the market in 2019, they will achieve a charging time of about15 min for a range of more than 200 miles. This technology really pushes the usability of electric vehiclesmuch forward (Technology Review). Thelast and maybe most important influence is the cost of ownership. If we wantelectric vehicles to be sold in higher numbers, the cost of ownership has to bein the same range as today’s combustion cars.
Let’s takeVolkswagen’s Golf as an example. The standard VW Golf with a 2.0-litercombustions engine costs about $24000. The e-Golf with the same trim andoptions costs about $36000, which means the price is about $12000 higher. On the other hand, the range of the e-Golfis only about 85 miles, whereas the range of the combustion version is threetimes higher.
Thereare surely some factors which decrease the cost of operating the vehicle likecheaper energy and fewer maintenance costs, but the hurdle to buy the electricversion is still high. Therefore, the government set financial incentives tolower the price of these cars. The most recent example is Germany, who willfund the purchase of an electric car with 4000EUR. Withthis research paper, I wanted to highlight the negative impact combustionvehicles and therefore CO2 emission has on society and our ecosystem.
Furthermore, I wanted to show that a future with less pollution and thereforeless global warming could be achieved by changing the vehicle market fromcombustion engine cars to fully electric vehicles. There are many influencingtechnical challenges where I presented three main factors. Charginginfrastructure is growing and in some more years, there will be enough chargingstations all over the countries.
The governmental bonus programs will help todecrease the cost of electric vehicles and if the renewable energy sources likesolar, wind or water are growing at least as fast as the demand, the energysource for electric cars will be fully pollution free.Consideringall these factors I am sure, that the vehicle transportation sector cansignificantly reduce the carbon dioxide pollution and this will be a great stepinto a future with less global warming.