The combustion engine was developed more
than a hundred years ago. It still works with the same principle: burning fuel
to get power. However, burning fuel consumes natural resources and additionally
generates carbon dioxide gas which leads to global warming. The country’s second-largest source of carbon pollution is the transportation
sector, which generates about
1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year (National Resources Defense Council). Currently, environmental protection is a
big issue in public discussions. Global warming seems to be the number one
problem which we can hear in the news almost daily. Scientists are convinced
that global warming is caused by an increasing amount of carbon dioxide in our
atmosphere. The
carbon-dioxide levels started to rise all the way back after the industrial
revolution, however, these levels convulsed with the invention of the first
capable large-scale production vehicle. Researchers of the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) have discovered a 223% increase in the
atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 1950 to 2017 (fig.
1). Overlaying the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere shows a clear
correlation with the rise in temperatures (fig. 2). Carbon dioxide, methane, soot,
and other pollutants that get released into the atmosphere trap the sun’s heat
and cause the planet to heat up. (National
Climate Assessment).Research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
calculated a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next hundred
years (NASA).An
average rise of 6.25 degrees Fahrenheit might seem insignificant, however, it
will and already has severe consequences such as severe weather conditions,
dirtier air, more acidic oceans, and higher sea levels. In
2015, for example, scientists have ascertained that the drought in California,
which was the state’s worst water shortage in almost
1200 years, had been intensified by roughly 20 percent as an effect of global
warming. Furthermore, the
probability of a comparable drought happening in the near future has almost
doubled over the past one hundred years. Aside
from the consequences on land, global warming affects the sea simultaneously. According
to National Geographic, Core samples, tide gauge readings, and, most recently, satellite
measurements have displayed a rise in the Global Sea Level (GSL) by 4 to 8
inches, although the average rise has not been higher than 0.13 inches yearly for
the last 20 years(National Geographic). This
rise is mainly created by thermal expansion, which means that water expands as
it heats up, and melting of glaciers and polar ice caps. Naturally, they melt back
a few inches each year. The snowfall in winter should normally suffice to counteract
the melting. As of recently, the increasing temperature caused by global
warming has an increasing effect in summer melting and lesser snowfall. This
imbalance results in an increased rate of glacier evaporation, causing the sea
levels to rise.Ultimately,
the rise in sea level can have destructive impacts on the surrounding land and
ecosystem. If storms hit land, higher sea levels mean bigger, more powerful
storms, that have incredible destructive potential. Furthermore, millions of
people living in areas that will become vulnerable to flooding would be forced to
abandon their homes. Shallow-lying islands could be subsided completely.To
antagonize that process of global warming we need to consider a different form
of power for our vehicles. One way of decreasing the CO2 emission is the
conversion to fully electric vehicles. Visionaries like Elon Musk are currently
working on ways make electric cars more approachable for the extensive
population, but due to huge disadvantages, they were sold only in very small
amounts. These disadvantages were: a very high cost of the batteries, very low
range and extremely long charging times. However,
as technology evolve, those disadvantages will disappear. Based on the current
speed of the technical development, it is likely that in a few years there will
be only electric vehicles and no one will use combustion cars anymore. This
would help a lot in reducing carbon dioxide pollution and therefore reduce the
global warming.But
how can we accomplish that goal? Why would people buy an electric instead of a
conventional vehicle? First of all, the range of an electric car has to be
competitive. Therefore, the battery capacities have to be increased
significantly. Most of today’s electric
vehicles have ranges of about 50 – 80 miles, which make them only usable for
urban traveling or commuting. But ranges are growing. Tesla Motors, for
example, has shown, that
large ranges are achievable with today’s battery
technology. The Tesla Model S, for example, has a range between 240 – 270
miles, and with the ongoing research in battery technology, these ranges will
increase further, leading to better usability of electric cars. Secondly,
it is necessary that the charging time of an electric vehicle will be much
shorter than today. For most customers, it is not acceptable to wait hours for
a full charge while a gasoline car can be refilled in minutes. Currently, Tesla
is able to shorten the charging time to less than 30 minutes per about 170
miles of range. That’s already a big step into a better
suitability for daily use. Tesla developed this “Supercharger” network to allow
far distance driving without having to use a combustion car for vacation trips etc.  That’s why they
deployed lots of charging stations around the cities and near freeways to
provide enough energy for long trips. But these charging times are still too
long for many customers who want to be able to travel as fast as with today’s
cars. Porsche recently announced that with their Mission-E vehicle, which is
supposed to hit the market in 2019, they will achieve a charging time of about
15 min for a range of more than 200 miles. This technology really pushes the usability of electric vehicles
much forward (Technology Review). The
last and maybe most important influence is the cost of ownership. If we want
electric vehicles to be sold in higher numbers, the cost of ownership has to be
in the same range as today’s combustion cars. Let’s take
Volkswagen’s Golf as an example. The standard VW Golf with a 2.0-liter
combustions engine costs about $24000. The e-Golf with the same trim and
options costs about $36000, which means the price is about $12000 higher. On the other hand, the range of the e-Golf
is only about 85 miles, whereas the range of the combustion version is three
times higher.There
are surely some factors which decrease the cost of operating the vehicle like
cheaper energy and fewer maintenance costs, but the hurdle to buy the electric
version is still high. Therefore, the government set financial incentives to
lower the price of these cars. The most recent example is Germany, who will
fund the purchase of an electric car with 4000EUR. With
this research paper, I wanted to highlight the negative impact combustion
vehicles and therefore CO2 emission has on society and our ecosystem.
Furthermore, I wanted to show that a future with less pollution and therefore
less global warming could be achieved by changing the vehicle market from
combustion engine cars to fully electric vehicles. There are many influencing
technical challenges where I presented three main factors. Charging
infrastructure is growing and in some more years, there will be enough charging
stations all over the countries. The governmental bonus programs will help to
decrease the cost of electric vehicles and if the renewable energy sources like
solar, wind or water are growing at least as fast as the demand, the energy
source for electric cars will be fully pollution free.Considering
all these factors I am sure, that the vehicle transportation sector can
significantly reduce the carbon dioxide pollution and this will be a great step
into a future with less global warming. 

 

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