Curtis Meyer, Reporter
Now you don’t have to be a car person to have heard about the recent trend that most automobile companies are jumping on. I’m talking about the electric car craze.
Now before you say that there have been cars like Elon Musk’s Tesla around for over a decade, I’ll do you one better. What if I told you that electric cars started life almost 2 centuries ago? The earliest electric cars were created in 1828 by Hungarian inventor Anyos Jedlik.
Now, these early vehicles were not very effective, only going 12 or so miles on one charge. At this time the horse and buggy could do it faster, quicker, and cheaper. However, they increased in technology greatly and were very popular in Europe towards the end of the century.
It wasn’t till 1889 that these cars were introduced to the U. S. market, but they were initially very popular. Overcrowding in cities led to overcrowding of horses, which led to a lot of dung and bad smells. See, smog is nothing new. The electric vehicle was widely used in cities like San Francisco, with a large boom happening right at the turn of the century.
Internal Combustion was just in its early stages, and there was widespread use of electric vehicle in cities. While most rural areas still held to the horse and buggy, it was cheaper and easier to own an electric vehicle at the time.
However, during the 20s, gasoline prices dropped, and mass production made it easier to build cars cheaply. Electric cars waned, as companies switched over to gasoline engines to meet demand. This continued until the current day, where we have the opposite occurring.
Now I’m not here to debate the politics behind the recent switch from gas to electric, simply discuss the logistics behind each. Now most companies have pledged to convert to fully electric as early as 2030, in Volvo’s case. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it would be prudent for us to seek out all options.
There has been a huge outcry against fossil fuels, with arguments about both the environment and just the sustainability of gasoline and oil. However, going to electric is not as simple as flipping a switch.
Most importantly, we have to know what we would really be saving with electricity. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration, 61 percent of U.S. energy is produced by fossil fuels. Only 20 percent of energy is actually renewable, while the other 19 are nuclear energy.
So in reality, changing to electric, while making a definite dent in pollution, would not solve the problem on it’s own, as the electricity used for the cars would still come from fossil fuels.
Then there’s the question of whether or not our electrical grid can actually handle the added strain of millions of EVs. While many sources disagree on the subject, there is little debate that the electrical grid would need some serious updating. We can look at California to see the somewhat humourism situation when the State asked EV owners to charge their cars at specific times, right after announcing the State’s intentions to be gasoline free by 2035.
The real key is to phase it in. If we were to sell our gas powered cars tomorrow and switch to electric, the grid would fail. It will take decades before we can rely on the grid to power everything. So that begs the question, why don’t we just go hybrid?
Obviously, nothing can match the electric cars’ zero emissions, but if the power grid isn’t zero emission, then the electric cars are not going to really be perfect. With hybrid cars, we can get the best of both worlds. There are too many variations of hybrids for me to go through them here, but you can get the instant torque of electric with the reliability and low cost of gasoline.
For many rural areas, or for long road trips, electricity just isn’t viable, as it requires time to charge and a charging port. Meanwhile, with a hybrid, you get amazing fuel efficiency, and the ability to go anywhere.
Really it comes down to your personal beliefs and price range, and the government’s ability to keep the grid and surrounding power plants ahead of the next wave of electric vehicles.