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Hybrid And Electric Cars Essay

3620 words - 15 pages

Global climate change is becoming an ever more relevant topic, and the reality of the issue is becoming more apparent. Support is growing to combat the effects, and one of the assumed ways is by driving eco-friendly vehicles such as the Toyota Prius or other hybrid cars. However, after researching some questions arise of just how eco-friendly these products are. One will explore the environmental effects of hybrid and all-electric vehicles. There are also economic impacts and social factors that will be addressed and they directly affect the production and consumption of these vehicles.
First off, one must be aware of the different terms used when discussing the topic. Conventional vehicles are simply vehicles with an internal combustion engine, or an ICE, that powers the vehicle using gasoline or diesel. Standard gasoline-electric hybrids use both conventional power and batteries that store energy from regenerative braking or from the motor (Nice and Layton). There are also plug-in hybrids that use an all-electric power before switching over to a conventional power, thus using gasoline (Plug in hybrid). And stop-start or micro hybrids in which the gasoline engine shuts off only while the car idles (Gerbis).
The history of hybrids and electric cars dates back to far before the realization of climate change and the environmental movement. The first experimental light-weight electric vehicles appeared in the USA, UK and the Netherlands in the mid-1830s. Later on, Thomas Edison joined forces, as he saw great opportunities for electric cars. He made substantial efforts to develop more efficient batteries. He developed the nickel-iron battery that could store 40% more energy per weight unit than the lead batteries (Høyer). The idea of a hybrid vehicle first emerged in the early 1900’s and seemed to combine the best of both worlds. However, mostly due to cost problems, the hybrid concept did, however, more or less disappear during the First World War, never to be looked seriously at again before the early 1970s (Høyer). In the early 1960’s environmental problems were seen as local problems, which could also be solved locally. The conventional private car was identified as one of the large sinners, and the electric car as a solution (Høyer). No strong advancements were made, and only the difficulties of developing an electric car were realized such as cost, driving performance, and being able to get a battery to power for enough distance. In the 1970’s, due to the oil crisis, the idea of renewable energy was once again revisited. These days, hybrid vehicles are mainly produced as a response to the environmental problems that are caused by conventional vehicles. However, all major innovation steps were made more than a hundred years ago, regarding electrical motors, batteries, and recharging infrastructure. This results in hybrid cars being more costly to produce than the pure conventional vehicles. This is one of the reasons why they totally...

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