Why the automobile world is sticking to fossil fuels?



Why the automobile world is sticking to fossil fuels? With all the pollution and rising price, you might be wondering why the world is reluctant to adopt alternative energy sources. There is no shortage for technology here; the shortage is only for practical ones. There are a variety of alternative energy sources like solar energy, electricity, hydrogen etc. Solar cars have been here since 1985, the first electric car was developed in 1974. Then why? Why is it taking this long for green cars to dominate our streets? The answer is simple; they are too good to be practical. Here I would like to discuss the cons of solar, electric and hydrogen cars.

Disadvantages of Solar cars




In Solar cars, the solar energy is converted to electricity by photovoltaic cells. It is good that you don’t have to stop at the gasoline station for refilling. But does it work that easily? Not really, it is only as long as the sun is out and for night riding, you need a battery back up. You can say that it has zero emission, but it lacks power. It will be long, before you can start dreaming of a 150 miles per hour solar car. The photovoltaic cells are very expensive and can heat up quickly, there by increasing the temperature inside the car.

Disadvantages of Electric cars




Electric cars have zero emission, but where does the electricity come from. It is a well known fact that most of the electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. Long trips on electric cars are practically impossible, because of the frequent charging required. Even if we can combat it with charging stations, it will take hours to recharge the battery. These batteries are quite heavy and are a real handicap as most of the power is used up for carrying the heavy battery. You can’t go beyond 80 miles per hour speed and quick acceleration or climbing is almost impossible. Each Li-ion battery costs around US $10,000 and has to be changed every 4 years.

Disadvantages of Hydrogen cars



Here is a video on how hydrogen cars work


Hydrogen cars work with the help of a fuel cell which converts hydrogen into electricity and giving off water and heat as byproducts. There is another kind of hydrogen car in which liquid hydrogen is filled in a tank just as we fill gasoline. Even though hydrogen has all the prospects of a future fuel, it has some hurdles to pass. First of all, it is very expensive to liquidize hydrogen. Hydrogen production cost is four times more than that of gasoline. Larger fuel tanks are required as hydrogen takes up more space than gasoline. So with a full hydrogen tank you can travel only half the distance as that of a full gasoline tank. Hydrogen is ten times more flammable than gasoline so high safety tanks should be used. This takes the cost even higher. More over, hydrogen filling stations are not common.

After going through all these technologies, I feel that Hybrid cars are our best bet right now. Hybrid cars come with gasoline and electric powered engines. The batteries get charged while breaking and coasting. It saves fuel by running on electric motor at very slow speeds and switches to gasoline engine while accelerating or climbing. It is basically a gasoline+electric car. Combining the advantages of both technologies make it perfect. But nothing comes without a price and price is what we all are worried about. Even though there are tax credits, the initial cost is almost double.

Here is a video on how Mercedez-Benz BlueTEC Hybrid car works




Why the world is sticking to fossil fuels? The answer is quite clear. Every technology has its own merits and demerits. A technology is accepted only when it comes with a higher number of merits and lesser number of demerits than the existing ones. Just like the digital cameras which replaced the old photographic films and cameras. Why gasoline became a success? Because it is a high energy source, efficient, affordable (not anymore) and is a direct fuel (it doesn’t require to be converted to another form of energy to be used as a fuel). I still believe that there is no better fuel than gasoline. Even though these cars cause pollution, there is no other option. I strongly believe that none of the above technologies will be the future fuel; they are just intermediate technologies, more like a bridge from one technology to another which come and disappear quickly like pagers. There is something big coming just like the cell phones.

5 comments:

  1. If you like this article please consider sharing.

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  2. With so many good sources on the net for information on this subject, I'm surprised that you not only felt the need to actually write this little blog, but got it so wrong.

    1. The automobile world is not sticking to fossil fuels. I guess you didn't notice.

    2. What you've listed are hurdles, most of which already resolved, some which will continue to improve, none show stoppers.

    3. Your section on electric cars is very outdated (in terms of battery and such) -- just have a look at the Volt and the MiEV. In terms of power plants, (a) you are still getting a HUGE air quality benefit just from moving the source away from all of the people, and (2) regarding greenhouse gases, there is not only a benefit now (even with coal fired powerplants), but more importantly, we are gearing up for the future. We're not just cleaning up cars, we are cleaning up electricity as well, and electricity is much more easily diversified than cars, so the time is now.

    In short, its sad that you feel so emotionally connected to gasoline that you have to 'believe' in it. But the world will move on, and you will adjust--so don't worry.

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  3. I really appreciate your comment and as you said, i have focussed more on the hurdles that all these alternative fuel vehicles have to pass. Most of them still remains intact. As you have pointed out Volt is a good invention, but it can run only 60Kms on electric engine and once the battery discharges, it switches back to normal combustion engine. That means the car is useful only for those people who drive less than 60Kms a day and that may be useful for office days, but all the savings made through electricity runs out if you go for a long run at the weekend. So that balances it out and the other thing that has to be balanced is the initial price. I won't be spending $42,000 for a car that can run only 60 Kms. Similar is the case of all electric cars. I am not saying that it is the end, sure the technology will evolve and electric cars will dominate the roads one day.

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    Replies
    1. Do American's really drive more than 60Km a day on average?

      I live in a much smaller country (in a medium sized town which you can walk from end to end in about an hour and thus there is no need for cars here at all) so it seems astonishing to me people would need to travel so far during their normal life.

      Most days I travel about 2km on average (on foot or when feeling lazy on the bus) when I do travel further (despite the extortionate prices) I tend to take the bus if I am going one way and the train if the other (I prefer the train but it doesn't go the other way) but in reality I have absolutely no NEED to ever leave my town so if I had to it would be completely feasible to never travel more than a few km in my daily life.

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  4. No, it's the end. Cars cannot run on anything other than fossil fuels. Modern civilization cannot be sustained on anything other than fossil fuels. As energy prices go up, large areas will become less and less civil, unemployment will shoot up, and hunger will become a constant problem.

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