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.