One of the largest contributors to air pollution and man-made global warming is transportation. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average passenger vehicle produces approximately five tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, which is thought to contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect. Electric cars represent one alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles and there are several key differences between the two technologies.
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The basic components that are required to operate a gas-powered car are an internal combustion engine, a standard or automatic transmission, an alternator, a carburetor or fuel-injection system, spark plugs, a crankshaft and a battery. According to Hybrid Cars, the main features of an electric car are an electric motor, a larger, heavier rechargeable battery, a computerized controller and a regenerative braking system which is connected to both the motor and the battery.
Operating a gas-powered car is fairly complicated compared to electric car operation. As you press the accelerator, gas is directed from the fuel tank through the fuel line to the engine, where it is combined with air and compressed by a piston. The spark plugs ignite the fuel, causing the pistons move. The motion of the pistons is transferred to the crankshaft, which turns the wheels. According to Hybrid Cars, when you press the accelerator in an electric motor, the controller sends a signal to the battery which tells it how much voltage to send to the motor. When you press the brake, the electric motor slows the wheels and acts as a generator, sending an electric current back to the battery for later use.
In terms of their initial cost, electric vehicles may be more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts. According to Cars Direct, electric car pricing for 2010 vehicles ranges from $15,000 to $100,000, depending on the make and model. Electric vehicles offer an advantage in terms of maintenance costs compared with gas-powered vehicles. Hybrid Cars estimates that electric vehicles cost approximately 2 cents per mile to operate, compared to 12 cents per mile for gas vehicles.
Electric cars are significantly better for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electric cars produce zero tailpipe emissions or air pollutants. They may produce emissions indirectly if they are recharged using the conventional power grid versus solar or wind power. Electric cars are also more energy-efficient than combustion engines, converting 75 percent of the battery's energy versus just 20 percent of the energy converted by gasoline cars.
While electric cars offer several advantages over gas-powered cars, there are several things to consider before purchasing one. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, current electric car battery technology limits their driving range to between 100 and 200 miles and it can take up to eight hours to fully recharge the battery. Compared with the 300-plus miles you can travel on a single tank of gas and the ease and convenience of refueling, electric vehicles may not be right for all drivers.