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Electric Cars

 

Overview

Electric cars offer many advantages when compared to gasoline-powered cars. Electric cars run without burning gasoline, and therefore, produce no exhaust pollution. They are relatively quiet during normal operation and nearly silent when idling; therefore, they produce much less noise pollution than gasoline-powered cars. Electric cars don't have many of the parts that gasoline-powered cars do -- parts that need continual upkeep at best, and that often fail (e.g., fuel injectors, carburetors, mufflers, distributors, water pumps, etc.). There are no tune-ups or oil changes for electric cars. Required battery maintenance is minimal. There is no emission-control system, which is one of the most complex and expensive parts of a car that uses gasoline. Most of the components in an electric car are electrical or solid-state, with no moving parts. The overall costs for maintaining an electric car average about 30% of that for gas-powered cars. So, if electric vehicles are so great, why don't we see many around? There are several reasons for this, the primary one being the relative efficiency of gasoline as a fuel. Gasoline is fairly inexpensive to produce; because it's a liquid, it's cheap to store and transport; and it has a very high energy content per unit of weight. Batteries, by comparison, have a low energy content per unit of weight. Several hundred pounds of batteries are needed for some electric cars. These batteries store as much energy as a single gallon of gasoline, which weighs only about five or six pounds. In addition, an electric vehicle gets only about 100 miles to a charge and can take hours to fully recharge . There are developments in electric cars that might eliminate some of the disadvantages. One example was seen in the Newton's Apple segment. This style of car is fueled by electrical metal strips laid within the roadbed. Electrical energy is provided from a central source through the metal strip. These electric cars do not require a battery source, only an electric motor . The electric-vehicle industry continues to grow. By the year 2000, any manufacturer who wants to sell gas-powered cars in the state of California must also have electric cars available. The cost of an electric car is approximately $17,000. Many "do-it-yourselfers" are converting their gas-powered cars to electric cars, thus saving money. Our dependence on the internal combustion engine is costing us in many ways, including monetarily and environmentally. Electric vehicles can bring us cleaner air and greater energy independence.

Activity

Investigate how different materials can produce electrical energy. Test different substances to determine whether they can produce an electrical current.
    Part I
Materials
  • #6 dry cell
  • knife switch OR push button
  • compass
  • 15 feet of 28-gauge (or finer) insulated wire
  1. Wind the insulated wire about 10 times around the compass at the north- and south-pole markings. The compass should be rotated so that the compass needle is also aligned in a north-south direction.
  2. Connect the wires in a complete circuit.
  3. Use the knife switch or push button to close the circuit only for a moment at a time. CAUTION: Leaving the circuit closed will result in a short circuit with the wires becoming very hot!
  4. Now make your own batteries using household items and test them in the next investigation. Use the "compass" galvanometer to detect an electric current after constructing it in steps 1 through 4.

Resources

    Colvin, R.L. (1991) "Electric-car buffs shift efforts into higher gear." In
    Los Angeles Times (February 11): Section B, pg. 3.
    deLucenay, L.G. (1983) The electricity story. New York: Arco Publishing.
    Traister, R.J. (1982) All about electric and hybrid cars, 1st ed. Blue Ridge
    Summit, PA: Tab Books.
    Additional sources of information:
    General Motors
    Electric Vehicle Group
    30200 Mound Rd.
    Warren, MI 48090
    (313) 556-5000
    Solar & Electric Car Racing Association
    11811 N. Tatum Blvd. Suite #3031
    Phoenix, AZ 85028