The author discusses history and evolution of cars since the inception of automatic locomotive. Three currently available types of automobiles are gasoline, hybrid and electric cars. Author discusses these alternatives in terms of costs, price, energy consumption and environmental impact or pollution. After a thorough discussion, author recommends the preferred type of fuel technology based on all these aspects.
The first car was developed in France in 1769. It was powered by steam. First car using modern technologies appeared in 1885. Most of the inventions used in current automobiles were perfected by 1930. Three fuel technologies in use in currently produced cars are gasoline, hybrid and electric. Gasoline is the most polluting fuel and electricity is the least. Hybrid cars present a practical and viable alternative but are very costly. Electric cars are least convenient to use but have potential to be the car of the future if technologies improve.
Historical Development and Evolution of Cars
The first car was powered by steam (Bottorff). Nicolas Cugnot, a French military engineer, developed the first self-propelled vehicle for the French army in 1769. He accomplished this by switching the back-and-forth action of a steam piston into rotary motion. The vehicle could reach maximum of walking speed and carried four tones. In 1801, Richard Trevithick improved the design of steam engines, by making them smaller and lighter with stronger boilers generating more power. He put one of his new compact steam engines on wheels. His ‘road locomotive’, known as the Puffing Devil, was the first horseless carriage to transport passengers. Improvements like hand brakes, gears, and steering enhancement were developed in following decades. The age of the modern car commenced in 1886. The first cars driven using internal combustion engines were developed roughly at the same time by two engineers working in different parts of Germany, namely Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz. They concurrently created highly successful and practically powered vehicles that, by and large, worked like the cars we use today. Two former French wood machinists, Rene Panhard and Emile Levassor, formed the world’s first motor company in 1889. Their first car was built in 1890 using a Daimler engine. Another French company, Peugeot was formed the following year and is still a major automobile company. A decade later, Wilhelm Maybach developed a race car using lightweight metals fitted with a 35-hp four-cylinder engine and two carburetors. Called the Mercedes, the car reached 64.4 km/h and crushed the world speed record. Grand Prix racing began in 1894. The first road traffic death occurred in 1896, when a driver hit a woman at just 4mph in London. In 1903, The Ford Motor Company formed and with mass production techniques, workers on the production line could assemble the car in just ninety-three minutes by 1927. By 1930, most of the technology used in automobiles today was already invented. In 1965, California became the first state to introduce control on harmful emissions. The 1973 energy crisis had a significant impact on car manufacturing business. Fuel economy rapidly became a very important aspect to consider when purchasing a car. Car manufacturers realized by 1997 that world oil reserves would deplete in the future, therefore they focused on developing greener technologies. Hybrid engines (Engines that use more then one fuel source) were introduced by Honda and Toyota in the US and Europe in 2002. These were petrol/electric hybrid engines (Discovery Chanel).
Fuel Technologies in Cars
Following fuel technologies commonly were used or are used today in cars: 1) Petroleum (Diesel and Gasoline) 2) Electricity 3) Steam 4) Hybrid Cars that use more than one fuel technology. The author will discuss Petroleum and Electric cars in this report. Steam vehicles are not in production today. Hybrid cars use gasoline and electricity as their fuel, so discussion on these cars will appear in petroleum and electric topics and no separate head will be devoted to hybrid cars.
Most automobiles in use today are fueled by gasoline or diesel. There were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road in 2007; they burn over 260 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel yearly. The numbers are increasing rapidly, especially in China and India (Hamilton). Gasoline is a major contributor of air pollution and is also blamed to add to adverse climate change and global warming.
In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler invented what is often recognized as the prototype of the modern gas engine. In 1886, Karl Benz received the first patent for a gas-fueled car (About.com). This was the beginning of an era that saw petroleum becoming the most exploited fuel technology in history. The author will examine the pollution impact, energy consumption, fuel costs and convenience of using petroleum powered cars.
Pollution Impact of Petroleum Powered Cars
83 to 87% of petroleum is composed of carbon. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas directly affected by human activities, has increased by about 30% since the beginning of the pre- industrial era around 1750 because of the combustion of fossil fuels (Al Gore). A very large portion of this contamination is the emission of carbon from cars. The world at large consumes 30 billion barrels (4.8 km³) of oil per year, and the top oil consumers largely consist of developed nations. In fact, 24% of the oil consumed in 2004 went to the United States alone, though by 2007 this had dropped to 21% of world oil consumed (Plunkett Research, Ltd.). Not only are the majority of cars currently on road use petroleum, most of the vehicles being produced today fueled by petrol (gasoline or diesel).
There is a substantial cost to the environment from this phenomenon. Our future generations will inherit much more hostile climatic conditions from us because of our irresponsible reliance on damaging and unsustainable energy sources. In the United States about 70% of petroleum is used for transportation (e.g. gasoline, diesel, jet fuel) (Maugeri), which means that if we replace our usage of gasoline powered cars with greener alternative energy sources, we will make a significant contribution to sustaining a friendlier planet then otherwise possible.
Energy Consumption in Petroleum Powered Cars
According to basic chemistry, burning 1 gallon of gasoline emits 19.4 pounds of CO2. There are 36 kWh of energy in that gallon of gas. Automotive Internal Combustion engines are anywhere from 15 to 28% efficient in average driving (The Energy Blog). By replacing a gasoline powered Internal Combustion Engine vehicle with an electric one, for the same amount of power at the wheels, we would reduce CO2 emissions by anywhere from 21% to 58% (Mabro).
Fuel Costs and Convenience of Petrol Powered Cars
The most fuel-efficient passenger vehicle in the U.S. is Toyota’s Prius gasoline-electric hybrid car. Gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles typically are priced higher than non-hybrid vehicles anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to several thousand dollars (Job).
Diesel is another fuel efficient option. Diesels are known for getting extra mileage out of every gallon of fuel. They offer better torque than many gasoline engines. And their price differential over gasoline models generally is much smaller than that for hybrids. Although hybrids have been available since 1997, and GM introduced its battery-powered EV1 in 1996, gas and diesel vehicles currently make up more than 97 percent of new automobile sales (Job).
Gasoline is the most abundantly available fuel at retail in cities. Gasoline powered cars are designed for convenience, fuel economies, good driving, speed and comfort. Servicing and parts are widely available. Therefore, gas cars are the best alternative if one is looking for convenience.
Electric cars have good acceleration and have generally satisfactory top speed, the inferior energy capacity of batteries against that of fossil fuels means that electric cars have relatively meager range between charges, and recharging can take considerable lengths of time (Wikipedia). However, for daily use, electric cars are very practical forms of transportation for short journeys and can be inexpensively recharged overnight. Reseach is focused on on-board energy storage methods that may give more range or faster recharge. Comfort levels are definitely low compared to gasoline powered cars due to battery charging time.
Electric cars have the potential of significantly reducing city pollution by causing zero emissions. Vehicle greenhouse gas savings depend on how the electricity is generated (La Monica). In the US, using an electric car would result in a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. It has been predicted that such emissions would decrease by 40% in the UK, 19% in China, and as little as 1% in Germany (Takahashi). Electric cars are expected to have a major impact in the auto industry due to reduction in city pollution, less reliance on oil, and expected rise in gasoline prices (Palm).
The author studied key aspects of hybrid, gasoline and electric cars in terms of energy efficiency, convenience, costs and environmental impact. The above discussion established that although gasoline cars are most destructive to environment, they are the massively produced and preferred due to convenience, sheer power they generate, fuel efficiencies and variety of options available in terms of choice and prices. Hybrid cars are most fuel efficient but highly priced, have moderate environmental impact, are less convenient then gasoline but preferable over electric cars. Electric cars have zero impact on environment, but issues relating to convenience discourage their production. However, they hold great promise in future if technology is improved. Significant development in this regard is being conducted.
The author concludes that if the buyer has high budget, he should go for a hybrid car. Otherwise, gasoline car should be the choice.
About.com, . “The History of the Automobile.” About.com: Inventors. About.com, 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aacarsgasa.html
Al Gore, . “The Dangers of Carbon Pollution on the Environment.” The White House. The White House, 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://clinton4.nara.gov/WH/EOP/OVP/24hours/vpenv.html
Bottorff, William W. “What Was The First Car? A Quick History of the Automobile for Young People”. Austin Business Computers, Inc.. 19 May 2010 ;http://www.ausbcomp.com/~bbott/cars/carhist.htm;.
Discovery Chanel, . “History of Cars Timeline.”Discovery Chanel. Discovery Chanel, 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://www.yourdiscovery.com/cars/timeline/;.
The Energy Blog, . “Greenhouse gas emissions – Electric vs Gasoline cars.” The Energy Blog. The Energy Blog, 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://energy.typepad.com/the-energy-blog/2010/04/greenhouse-gas-emissions-electric-vs-gasoline-cars.html;.
Hamilton, Bruce. “Why pick on cars and gasoline?.”Staston.org. Staston.org, 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://stason.org/TULARC/vehicles/gasoline-faq/5-1-Why-pick-on-cars-and-gasoline.html;.
Job, Ann. “Don’t Be Fueled: Gas vs. Diesel vs. Hybrid Power.” MSN Autos. MSN Autos, 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://editorial.autos.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=435228;.
LaMonica, Martin (2009-02-02). “Plotting the long road to one million electric cars”. CNN.com. 2010-04-18
Mabro, Robert; Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (2006). Oil in the 21st century: issues, challenges and opportunities. Oxford Press.
Maugeri, Leonardo. The Age of Oil. Lyons Press, 2007. Print.
Palm, Erik (2009-05-01). “Study: Electric cars not as green as you think, Green Tech – CNET News”. News.cnet.com. 2010-04-18.
Plunkett Research, Ltd., . “Automobiles and Trucks Trends.” Plunkett Research, Ltd.. Plunkett Research, Ltd., 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://www.plunkettresearch.com/Industries/AutomobilesTrucks/AutomobileTrends/tabid/89/Default.aspx;.
Takahashi, Yoshio. “Nissan Motor Turns Over a New Leaf, Going Electric.” The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal, 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124919217149699407.htm
Wikipedia, . “Electric car.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 19 may 2010. Web. 19 May 2010. ;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car;.