How Green is the Electric Car Valley ?
Every source of energy must come from some original formation of a plant or animal product. For example, when cows are flatulent they produce Methane gas (CH4) which can be used for any power source. Methane gas can be burned easily and will produce energy when it does.
So, let’s pose a question regarding Electric Vehicles. Where does the electricity come from that powers these cars? You may say, ” It comes from charging the battery ” which is of course correct, but we will need to go to the source of the battery charge to examine the original source of our power.
Conversion of Energy Looses Power
Most batteries for cars will be charged via the electric power provided at a charging-station or with household 220 Volt connections. OK you say, but how clean and efficient is that ?
When the battery is charged with AC power, it will have to be converted to DC power in order to charge the batteries because this requires DC current to do the job. But we will incur losses
as we do this, that is, we will loose energy in the process. Good battery chargers will convert about 85% of the incoming electric power to DC charging current. But this means that about 15% will be lost to heat generation in the converter device.
Lithium Batteries used in Electric Vehicles Present Issues for Our Environment and Safety
Lithium Ion Batteries are commonly used in electric vehicles, and even in powered skateboards. These batteries are very useful because they can contain a higher energy density than other types. Energy density is the amount of power capacity that you can get out of a battery per weight of the battery. Lithium Ion (Li-On) batteries in many cases are packaged together to develop higher current or voltage as a unit. This denser packaging may cause problems when one or more cells develops a failure and thus a hazardous condition. Ignition and burning of Li-On batteries has occurred in may types of vehicles, airplanes, skateboards, and commonly seen in laptop computers. These issues can result from manufacturing or design problems or from improper use conditions. These charged cells contain stored electrical energy which comes from their internal chemical reactions. Discharging Li-ion cells creates chemical energy that can be released through by the combustion of their electrolytes.
In addition to the use concerns, Li-On cells and other batteries present recycling issues, and they need to be disposed of and recycled in the proper manner (this is common of other battery types as well). An electric vehicle may contain many pounds of these cells when it is produced and in operation on the road. At end of life these energy sources should be recycled and/or properly disposed of. These “end of life costs” should be considered as real and part of the overall cost of using “green vehicles”. Improperly discarding of these energy sources can lead to more costs for the society as a whole, or the individual costs of disposal in addition to the replacement costs for the vehicle involved.