E-mobility for environmental protection then and now

4/27/21 7:38 AM
Electric cars have become increasingly popular in recent years, but this is not a new trend, the first such vehicles appeared in the late 19th century.
Source: A Short History of Electric Vehicles; https://www.willbyers.com/blog/history-of-electric-cars

Environmentally friendly vehicles are also getting more and more widespread in public transport: since February 2021, in a unique way in Hungary, Paks has exclusively electric buses for public transport. However, electric transport can only be truly environmentally friendly if the electricity supplied to the vehicle is produced without CO2 emissions. One of the most effective ways to do this is nuclear power. In 2020, 55% of Hungarian electricity was carbon neutral, using nuclear, solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy. 87% of this clean energy was provided by the Paks Nuclear Power Plant. However, in order to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality, it is not enough to take action only in the field of electricity generation, other measures are also needed. Among other things, in the field of road transport, as it is one of the biggest causes of air pollution in developed countries.

Paks took an important step for environmental protection when the former so-called „local commuter” buses were replaced with electric vehicles. There are ten Solaris buses with a capacity of 200 and 250 kilowatt hours on the city's roads.

A special feature of electricity is that it cannot be stored in industrial amounts, so supply and demand must match at all times. Of course, electricity can also be stored in a "bypass", such as heat or situational energy, but this requires first being converted to some other energy, storing it and then converting it back if necessary. Currently, by far the most common solution is the use of pumped-storage power plants, and another technology that has become extremely popular in recent years is battery storage. Following several other types, lithium-ion batteries appeared in the 1970s, but it took decades to become dominant. Lithium is the lightest metal and can be used to achieve very high cell voltages. Its energy density is many times higher than that of its predecessors, it is capable of delivering high power and has a high energy efficiency, i.e. a small part of the stored energy is only lost during conversion and re-conversion.

Batteries are used in several areas, one of which is the electric car. Battery-powered electric-drive vehicles appeared virtually at the same time as cars with internal combustion engines in the late 19th century. They surpassed the latter in popularity and prevalence for a long time because they were not noisy, dirty, smelly, and they did not to be cranked. For a long time, it was unworthy of a gentleman to drive a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, but there was no such problem with electric propulsion.

The first electric car with a rechargeable battery was made by the British inventor Thomas Parker in 1884, and then the golden age began a few years later, as these vehicles also appeared in increasing numbers in London, Paris, and New York.

At that time, they were not at a significant disadvantage in terms of range and performance compared to cars equipped with internal combustion engines. At the turn of the century, 40% of cars in the U.S. were steam-powered, 38% electric, and 22% gasoline-powered. This meant that by 1912, more than 33,000 electric cars were on the roads in the United States. However, their spread was limited by the lack of infrastructure, high price, and the ever-improving performance of internal combustion engines. With the development of technology, such as the invention of the starter, internal combustion engines eventually became dominant, mainly due to the high energy densities of gasoline and diesel, thus ending the competition for decades. However, the advent of lithium batteries has also created a new opportunity for e-cars.

Today, electric or hybrid cars are once again becoming more popular as they reduce local air pollution, thus they are important tools for climate protection. The electric vehicle utilizes the energy already produced and stored. A purely electric drive is significantly simpler and requires less service. Consumption and emissions are more favorable than internal combustion. In the case of electric vehicles there is no „clean electricity”, in the case of hybrids the local emission of pollutants is more favorable compared to that driven only by an internal combustion engine. However, in the case of purely electric vehicles, low range and long charging times are still to be reckoned with today.