There is a strong case to be made for industrial societies to change over to renewable sources of energy. At the centre of the debate is the unsustainable continuing fossil fuel usage and the attendant environmental degradation. The United States is one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels in the world and has been a major contributor to greenhouse gas induced global warming. Hence it is only logical that it takes a leadership role in adopting renewable energy practices across the board. As of today, less that 10 percent of energy usage is tapped from renewable sources such as wind energy, hydroelectric energy, solar energy, etc (Bradley, 2000, p.24). Though the transition will not be without its share of practical difficulties, persisting toward a renewable energy future is a wise and noble goal for policy makers in the country. The first major step toward that end would be to support manufacturing and marketing of electric cars (either purebred or hybrid) so that it replaces conventional fossil fuel dependent cars in the country. This essay will further analyze the impact electric cars will have on the fuel consumption patterns in the future.
One of the major reasons for the push toward electric cars is the energy efficiency it offers consumers. That is, if in the near future, electric cars were to replace gasoline/diesel powered cars then the users will save money by virtue of using a more efficient power system. In the words of Robert Ayres and Ed Ayres,
“We may be encouraged by the advent of plug-in electric cars, but while the average mechanical efficiency of an electric motor is around 80 percent (depending on size, speed, etc.), the charge-discharge cycle for the battery itself probably loses 20 percent each way, so a car using plug-in electricity from a 33-percent-efficiency central power plant might have an overall efficiency around 16 to 18 percent. That is a lot more efficient than a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle operating in city traffic, but still ends up letting five of every six barrels of oil-equivalent go to waste”. (Ayres, 2009, p.23)
Scientists also argue that those who switch over to electric cars in the future will benefit from improved payload efficiency as well. This is particularly useful for those in the transportation and cargo industry who move tons of goods across the globe. Even in transporting people electric cars offer better payload efficiency. For example, while conventional motor cars have a payload efficiency of 2-3 percent, an electric car offers a minimum of 4 percent (Ayres, 2009, p.24). Not only do these benefits accrue to the general consumer but it would also have an effect on the overall economy. Even as early as the mid 1990s, economists asserted that a decrease in the demand for gasoline and the proportional increase in demand for electric cars would help the country’s balance of trade position by reducing the quantity of imported oil. If most Americans switch to electric cars in the future, it essentially means that the country is switching away from importing oil. As of now, “we’re importing about $65,000,000,000 [of oil] a year, and our trade imbalance is $90,000,000,000, so oil is a substantial part of the trade imbalance that is slowly making us bankrupt”. (Ayres, 2009, p.24)
The only concern with using electric cars is the increase in coal consumption it will entail. But analysts maintain that it is much easier to contain pollutants in a coal-fuelled plant than in controlling the exhaust emissions of automobiles. Another significant way in which the fuel consumption of the future will be different is the usage if rechargeable batteries that store up electrical energy and convert it into mechanical energy that powers a car. One of the leading experts on battery technology is Stanford University chemistry professor John Ross. He explains that in