Electric Cars


In my progress report in will discuss the history of electric cars, and the impacts they have on the environment. This topic was chosen because electric cars have always been my interest because they represent the future technology. In this research paper, the actual effects of electric cars to the environment will be examined thoroughly. Furthermore, the research paper will provide sustainable solutions to help solve the negative effects to the environment. Electric powered cars often use rare earth metals and leave behind the vast majority of the earth where they came from turning it into toxic waste. I will also be searching for alternative sources of power for this car and discuss a new design that will be sustainable for this environment.

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Men have always sought for better means of travel since the advent of time. First men walked on their own two feet. Then at the dawn of civilization roughly 6000 years ago, men were able to domesticate the horse. The real genius came when the first engine was invented, and thus things started to pick up. According to Rasouli & Harry (pg. 99-130), the internal combustion engine was a work of art that had no rival at the time. This was the precursor to the automobile. In 1885 a brilliant German engineer by the name of Karl Benz designed and built the first automobile that was powered by an internal combustion engine.

By the turn of the 1900 Benz was the largest producer of the automobile. One may be tempted to ask about Henry Ford whose name is tossed around when one thinks of the car. Well, Ford built a manufacturing plant in Highland Park, Michigan in 1913 to 1914. Why thinking of the first car calls Henry Ford to mind is because the first car the assembly built, the Model T was the most famous car at that era in history. It has been said that it was assembled in record ninety-three minutes. Over time the engine was improved, and the aesthetics of the car grew to reflect artistry on wheels.  Here is the thing, the internal combustion engine used fossil fuels in order to generate energy which was directed to the wheels and thus propelled the car forward using kinetic motion.

Though brilliant, the end products of combustion namely carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide led to global warming. The gases produced trap heat in the atmosphere and thus increase the temperature on the ground. If this continues, then the Earth will not be livable in a couple of millennia. So someone asked a question if we cannot find a way to make the internal combustion engine not use fuel, why not come up with another type of car? Thus the electric car was brought into being.

History of the Electric Car

When people think of electric cars, what comes to mind is modes of transport that are propelled by electricity such as electric trains, trams, and many others. The term for them is an electric vehicle. Burton (pg.10) states that an electric car has been defined as any vehicle that runs at least partially on electricity as opposed to normal cars that run on diesel and gasoline engines The electric car is propelled by an electric motor that draws electricity from batteries and fuel cells. Contrary to popular belief the electric car was not invented in the 21st century.

I shall now delve into its history: In 1832, a Scottish born inventor by the name of Robert Andersen invented a very crude carriage. The thing that set it apart was that it was an electric carriage powered by non-rechargeable primary cells. In 1835 an American named Thomas Davenport built a small locomotive that is powered by electricity. Things started looking up in 1859 when the French Physicist Gaston Plante invented the first rechargeable lead-acid storage facility.

In 1891 a man from Iowa by the name of William Morrison built the first successful electric car in the United States. In 1897 electric cars hit the streets of the big apple, New York manufactured by the Pope Manufacturing Company located in Connecticut. According to Burton (pg.10), prior to this in 1893 at a show in Chicago different models were shown to the general public. In 1899 an acclaimed man that shaped the future by inventing the bulb, Thomas Alva Edison, began building a long-lasting battery for commercial use.

Edison believed that electricity would run automobiles in the future and it is on this premise that he began building the long-lasting battery only to abandon it a decade later having borne no fruits. Burton further writes that between 1900 and 1970 the electric car goes out of fashion because at that time cars powered by internal combustion were the preferred choice of car (Burton). Things started looking up when the Japanese car making company Toyota built its first hybrid, the Prius, and it sold over 18000 units. This happened in 1997. According to Burton, nothing much happens for the electric car between 1997 and 2005.

Then Tesla came into the picture, and with it, they brought the Tesla Roadster. Tesla unveiled the roadster at the San Francisco Auto-show in November 2006 with a promise to start mass producing the car in 2008. From 2008 to date, many electric cars, though many of them hybrids, have been produced by major companies such as Ford, Nissan, and Tesla. Burton further writes that the companies have received financial incentives from governments to ensure that they produce efficient vehicles in the name of electric cars. The future is looking up for electric cars.


The questions which I will attempt to answer are as follows:

How much energy is used to produce one electric car as compared to one unit of a conventional car?

How are lithium-ion batteries currently disposed of?

What are the environmental effects associated with the production of lithium-ion batteries?

Jager, Marco & Marija (pg. 259-270) poses that the problem with internal combustion engines is not so much in their efficiency but that they burn fossil fuels whose byproducts in the form of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are slowly destroying the ozone layer and trapping heat in the atmosphere which leads to global warming. Electric cars do not use fuel. Instead, they are run by an electric motor that draws its energy from batteries and fuel cells (Rasouli & Harry pg. 99-130).

Since electric cars do not use fuel that means that they do not emit ozone altering gases and thus they help in protecting the planet. Jager, Marco & Marija (pg. 259-270) have claimed that electric cars tend to be very quiet as compared to gasoline or diesel powered cars and thus there is reduced pollution Electric cars are considered to be friendlier to the environment as compared to the diesel cars.  Many governments are even encouraging people to adopt electric cars (Wilson).

However, it should be noted that electric cars still pose a serious threat to the environment. Dias et al. pg. 298-304 argues that this electric still run on electric power which is still generated from the burning of fossils fuels which release harmful gases into the atmosphere. As a matter of fact, electric cars have shifted just shifted pollution from the roads to the electric power plants. Furthermore, the batteries used when disposed to the environment pose a greater threat than the fossil fuels. Dias et al. (pg. 298-304) writes that in the present condition, the overall amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere due to the use of electric cars is similar to the overall amount caused by combustion engines

As all have yin and yang so does electric cars. The production of the electric car specifically its battery has been termed an environmental hazard. Hacker et al (pg56-90) also claims that it takes twice the energy to produce an electric car as compared to a normal diesel or gasoline powered car. Plus the minerals needed, such as copper-cobalt and neodymium, to make the batteries lead to vast ecological devastation in terms of deforestation, polluted rivers, and many others. Furthermore, Notter et al. (pg. 6550-6556) writes that many electric cars are made from a lightweight aluminum frame, and it takes a tremendous amount of energy to convert bauxite into a light ore (). Questions have been raised as to whether disposal of the batteries that electric cars run on will not lead to a new environmental crisis.


The questions which I will attempt to answer are as follows:

What alternative energy sources should be used?

What new technologies can be integrated with electric cars to improve their long-term sustainability?

It is important to note that the key to the control of climate change relies greatly on the advancement of technology.  It therefore essential to find sustainable ways and means of producing energy and meeting the transport demand. As stated earlier the age of electric cars is upon us, and we must find new and efficient ways to accommodate this technology. Electric cars work by connecting a small generator to a rechargeable battery. Even though the volt battery is cutting-edge, there are other advances that such as the high-performance lithium-ion batteries which promise a wider range and only requires six recharge time and draws from normal wall sockets.

In order for one to perfect the electric cars, the designs of this cars should be improved. First sustainable sources of energy should be provided, and electric cars can use renewable energy such as solar panels. There should be very many different types of electric cars to provide stability to the power grid. This should include plug-in cars, battery cars, and hydrogen cell powered cars. The hydrogen-powered car is the most sustainable because it produces less emission the environment. In this type of car, a battery is fed by an external source of hydrogen.

Putrus et al. on the other hand argues that this different types of electric cars will be able to tap power from different source thereby stabilizing the existing power grid. The various sources of power such as wind, a solar and nuclear power which are all free from carbon dioxide emissions can be feed directly into the grid that can recharge the batteries. Other sources of energy can also be used in the splitting of water into hydroxyl and hydrogen ions. The hydrogen is then used in powering hydrogen cell.

According to Putrus et al., the power storage capacities of the cars should also be increased. This will also play a very important role in the stabilization of the electric grid. The new models should be designed in such a way that they not only draw power from the grid, but when they are parked, they should be connected to feed additional power back to the electric grid when there is high demand for electricity. The cars will now become part of the overall electric grid. This car should also be managed remotely and efficiently to optimize the recharging time from, and in returning to the power to the grid. Increasing the storage capacities will also be helpful in reducing the charging woes.

It will enable people to travel for longer ranges and avoid the building of numerous charging stations (Chris & Masrur). The cars should also be designed as smart cars with sensors and vehicle to vehicle communication systems. This system will help prevent a collision, traffic routing and could be designed to detect pollution and take measures to reduce the same.  The integration of vehicle propulsion systems and the information technologies will help to introduce new safety measures, maintenance, and also convenience.

In order to introduce this new technology to the world, both the private and public sectors will have to work together. This includes the car making companies, the utility companies, the network providing companies, road builders, and the government. This sector should all find a way of cooperating and competing with each other to achieve this goal. The government should also put in more funding to enable the development of this sustainable cars. The rate of climate change in the world should be a chance for global cooperation and brainstorm on technologies which are sustainable to the environment. Through public-private partnership and cutting-edge engineering ideas, the transition to sustainable technologies throughout the world.


Holtsmark, Bjart, and Anders Skonhoft. “The Norwegian support and subsidy policy of electric cars. Should it be adopted by other countries?” Environmental science & policy 42 (2014): 160-168. Burton, Nigel. History of electric cars. Crowood, 2013.

Rasouli, Soora, and Harry Timmermans. “Influence of social networks on latent choice of electric cars: a mixed logit specification using experimental design data.” Networks and Spatial Economics 16.1 (2016): 99-130. Wilson, Lindsay. “Shades of green: electric cars’ carbon emissions around the globe.” (2013).

Mi, Chris, and M. Abul Masrur. Hybrid electric vehicles: principles and applications with practical perspectives. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.

Bessen, James. “History backs up Tesla’s patent sharing.” Harvard Business Review Blog 13 (2014).

Helmers, Eckard. “Advances and critical aspects in the life-cycle assessment of battery electric cars.” methodology 11 (2017): 12.

Dias, Marcos Vinícius Xavier, et al. “The impact on electricity demand and emissions due to the introduction of electric cars in the São Paulo Power System.” Energy Policy 65 (2014): 298-304.

Jager, Wander, Marco Janssen, and Marija Bockarjova. “Diffusion dynamics of electric cars and adaptive policy: towards an empirical based simulation.” Advances in social simulation. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2014. 259-270.

Putrus, G. A., et al. “Impact of electric vehicles on power distribution networks.” Vehicle Power and Propulsion Conference, 2009. VPPC’09. IEEE. IEEE, 2009.

Notter, Dominic A., et al. “Contribution of Li-ion batteries to the environmental impact of electric vehicles.” (2010): 6550-6556.

Hacker, Florian, et al. “Environmental impacts and impact on the electricity market of a large scale introduction of electric cars in Europe-Critical Review of Literature.” ETC/ACC technical paper 4 (2009): 56-90.