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In ‘Charge’ Of Our Future

Published on December 14th, 2019 at 01:12 am

By Eugene Tsai

From the beginning of civilization, humans have been constantly developing technological advancements ranging from agriculture all the way to space stations. With these new technological advancements, most fail to consider the impact these new technologies have on the environment. One such human innovation is the car, a crucial part in many people's lives. In a country where 85 percent of people own cars and commute by car to work, the car has become part of a lifestyle. Most cars are gasoline or diesel powered, which is detrimental to the environment. But in recent years companies such as Tesla, Nissan, Chevy, and other major car companies have been producing electric cars for the car market. Although they yet to have to win the trust of the public, electric cars should replace gasoline cars because they are better for the environment, they are just as good or even better than gasoline cars, and many benefits are associated with owning an electric car.

Firstly, global warming is an accelerating problem in today's world. The 21st century saw a large increase in manufacturing, waste, and agriculture which all release carbon dioxide pollution that collects in earth's atmosphere. This happens as the earth is unable to dissipate its heat from the sun, due to the carbon dioxide trapping the heat inside, creating what is known as the ‘greenhouse effect’. Which leads to the increase in the earth's temperature and is destructive as it causes a rise in sea levels, melting ice caps, unstable weather patterns, and extinction of many species of animals and plants. First discovered in the mid eighteenth century, global warming can be visibly proven with satellite images and studies show that, “sea ice drops by an estimated 0.73 to 1.07 million kilometers per decade, and on land snow cover is shrinking even faster than ice is retreating.” (Jokela 14) Melting ice caps not only affects polar bears by destroying their habitat, but also affects humans by destroying coastal settlements and drinking water sources. “For Asia-Pacific installations, sea level rise can lead to salt intrusion, beach lose, and storm surges.” (Gomez 64) This issue is especially prevalent in today's world as the population grows rapidly, leading to the need of more factories and manufacturing, cars and transportation, and agriculture, which is the largest contributors to adverse climate change and global warming. In all, global warming is an issue that affects us all, and is caused by humans, but can also be remedied.

Many human activities cause carbon dioxide pollution, out of which 17.4% of these pollutants come from cars, taxis, and buses all of which can be replaced by electric vehicles. Gasoline, petrol, or diesel powered cars use nonrenewable fossil fuels for propulsion and have a large impact on today's modern society. We rely on these vehicles keep our society moving by moving passengers to work or school, transporting goods across land, and help in exploration and urbanization. The environmental harm not only comes from the cars themselves consuming fuel, but also comes from harvesting the fuel in the first place. Research done on Arctic effects of drilling oil for gasoline said, “drillers eyeing the region has already begun to impact on the lives of the people, plants, and animals lives that live there”. (Jokela 17) Oil drilling has a large negative effect on our environment as it deplete our natural oil supply and harms the environment and destroys natural habitats. Cars so require oil to operate, which also is taxing to the environment to create and dispose of. “ Fewer oil changes also lessen pollution since used oil is often disposed of improperly”. (Cary 1) To sum, gasoline, petrol, and diesel powered cars are profoundly bad for the environment as they consume non-renewable energy and vehicles themselves cannot be disposed without harming the environment.

The first electric car was invented in 1832, but was very limited as the technologies of batteries and efficient motors were not yet available. Car makers decided to go down the path of gasoline powered cars as it was within their technology, and gasoline was more accessible to the public. This trend of creating gas powered vehicles became the norm and infrastructure supported it, such as gas stations; but today as battery technology becomes more accessible, electric cars are becoming real competitors to gasoline powered cars. The most notable and popular example an electric car was from Japanese motor company Nissan, who created the ‘Leaf’. A study on the car market found that, “In 2014, the Nissan Leaf made up 24.5% of all electric cars around the world.” (Nealer 9) Nissan’s affordable electric cars made it possible for many to buy an electric car, which demonstrated to other car makers such as Chevy, Tesla, BMW, Volkswagen, and Ford, that there was a market for electric cars. This wave of new electric cars was also backed by market evidence that environmentally friendly cars were popular with car buyers. “Hybrid-electric vehicles have found their way into the market and gained a small, devoted, following” (Levinson, 21) The large sales of the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight, suggested that people were willing to pay extra for environmental benefit. To conclude, the rise of electric cars came in front of the public interest in environmentally friendly, fuel efficient vehicles.

Some may argue that switching to these electric cars will make an insignificant difference to the environmental impact of cars because they run on electricity, which still requires the burning of fossil fuels to generate. Although, a significant portion of electricity is generated using fossil fuels, electric cars are still better for the environment as they are substantially more efficient, can be powered by renewable energy, and manufacturing/disposal is less harmful. Firstly, electric cars are more efficient than their gasoline counterparts. Efficiency between these two energy sources are calculated in miles traveled in certain pollution output. A study conducted on different fuel sources of cars efficiency found that “on one unit of oil a gasoline car can go 1 mile, while an electric car can go 29 miles. If hydro power generation was used, electric cars can go 5,100 miles for every mile a gasoline car can go.” (Nealer 7) This study shows that electric cars are significantly more efficient than gasoline powered cars. Secondly, electric cars can be powered by renewable energy such as geothermal, hydro, wind, wave, and solar power generation for charging electric cars. Finally, electric cars are better for the environment as they are much simpler. This means that parts can easily be recycled into new electric cars and manufacturing and disposal of these cars can be done with less overall energy. And because electric cars are not powered by an engine, they do not require oil and large amounts of coolant, which are harmful to the environment when produced and disposed of improperly. A research on gasoline car oil found that, “a car will change its oil an average of 7 times in the life of the car, and uses 8 quarts of oil each time”. (Cary 1) This oil, which will most commonly disposed of in the ocean, adds up to a large amount of oil consumed by a gasoline car. Overall, electric cars are unquestionably more environmentally friendly compared to gasoline powered cars.

Even though these electric cars are much more efficient, the majority of car buyers prefer to buy gasoline powered cars because it is more accepted in society as reliable, affordable, and has existing infrastructure. The switch to electric cars is hard because they are limited in range between charges. “Electric cars get about 70 miles between recharges vs the 200 miles from a gasoline car.” (Orski 532) In addition, the switch to electric is hard due to the high initial starting price for electric cars. But companies such as Tesla have aimed to produce cheaper cars, for further accessibility. Governments such as the United States, Sweden, and Canada to name a few, have created incentives to promote sales of electric cars. For example in California, United States, the government offers a seven thousand dollar tax rebate to even out high prices of electric vehicles. On top of which offer special parking spaces, special freeway access, and free charging to make the electric car more appealing. A study on the benefits of electric cars found that, “over the vehicles lifetime, the electric car will save $13,000 on fuel cost, when charging in free charging stations.” (Nealer 28) These government sponsored incentives to switch over to electric cars are promoting a more environmentally sustainable form of transportation, with projected goals of banning gasoline-powered cars in 2050. In all, the electric car does have its downsides, but also offer some benefits over their gasoline counterparts on top of being favorable to the environment.

In conclusion, the rise of electric cars have yet to win over the public and prove their value over gasoline powered cars, to help mitigate the accelerating environmental harm transportation brings. But through technological breakthroughs, government backing, and rise in their popularity they have a decent chance at making an impact to the environment. Everyone has the responsibility to consider switching to electric cars because gasoline powered cars contribute to environmental issues that affect the entire planet.

Works Cited

L.R. Cary, W.H. Stover and D.W. Murray, “Extended Drain On Passenger Car Engine Oils” (SAE International, 1978)

Vladmir Moya Quiroga Gomez, “Deep Sea Rising” (Society of American Military Engineers, 1976)

Juha Jokela, “Arctic Security” (European Union Institution For Security Studies, 2015)

David M. Levinson, “How to make zero-emission cars go mainstream”, (Council of Forign Relations, 2019)

Rachael Nealer, David Reichmuth, and Don Anair, “Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave” (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015)

C. Kenneth Orski, “The Great Electric Car Debate” (American Bar Association, 1998)