The Use Of Electricity In Our Future Transportation Essay Samples
The Use of Electricity and Magnetism in Our future Transportation.
The discovery of electricity ranks among the most important discoveries in the history of modern humankind. Man has gone on to have such a huge dependence on electricity in all aspects of life, that it is sometimes difficult to imagine a world with no electricity. As the world continues to become even more industrialized and developed, this reliance can only continue to grow, and the benefit and value of electricity in our lives will gain more significance. Various theories of electricity have emerged over the years, with plenty of innovations resulting. Knowledge of magnetism has also been in the modern world for a long time. This knowledge, especially when combined with that of electricity has also played a key role in many advancements made in the world. This is more so in the field of transportation. In future, one of the primary issues that relate to transportation is emissions. The reduction of emissions is the focus of the developed world. Since the almost exclusive reliance on fossil fuels in transportation is responsible for a large percentage of emissions, there has been a clamor for alternative solutions. These solutions focus on the use of “green” energy to power transportation in the future. One of these “green” sources of energy is electricity. Thus, there is increasing research into how electricity can be harnessed for transportation. This paper looks at how electricity and magnetism are set to drive and revolutionize future transportation.
One of the areas where we are set to see electricity being used more and more in the future is to power electric cars. Electricity-powered vehicles are by no means a new invention. These vehicles have been around for quite a long period. The first electric car invention can be credited to Robert Anderson of Scotland, who developed his carriage-like contraption in the years between 1832 and 1839. However, in 1835, Professor Stratingh of Groningen and his assistant, Christopher Becker, built a small-scale electric vehicle. More successful versions of the electric car were developed by an American named Thomas Davenport as well as by Anderson. These inventions were the first to employ the use of non-rechargeable electric cells (Mom, 2004). Frenchmen Gaston Plante and Camille Faure developed better storage batteries in 1865 and 1881 respectively. However, the 1900’s saw a lull in the development of these vehicles and the progress in this field stagnated to some extent until the 1960’s and 70’s. As of 2011, the race for electric vehicles has continued to heat up, and they are now in use on a largely increased scale (Mom, 2004).
Electric vehicles are alternatively designed vehicles that employ the use of an electric motor in order to give power to the vehicle. The electricity that is used to power the car is provided by a battery. The electric cars, just like internal combustion cars, have a motor. However, whereas internal combustion engines derive mechanical power from burning gasoline, electric cars get their power from electricity stored in batteries. The batteries in use range from normal lead acid batteries like those in ordinary cars to lithium ion batteries like for mobile phones. Some can also be nickel-based. Electric cars have an electric motor, a pack of batteries and a controller in place of a gasoline engine and fuel tank. The controller is used to power the electric motor that has rechargeable batteries as a source of power. The motor can use either Alternating Current (AC) or Direct Current (DC). The motor-battery combination ensures the vehicle is more economical fuel-wise. This represents the biggest advantage of these electric cars (Mom, 2004).
These vehicles also have better acceleration. This results from the overdrive feature present in DC motors. The motor accepts a larger amount of energy over a short period, and thus it delivers a greater amount of horsepower. This is useful in acceleration. However, running the vehicle in overdrive too often may cause the motor to overheat and malfunction. In the more expensive AC motors, a 3-phase AC motor with regenerative braking is the norm. This means that the motor operates as a generator during braking and returns power back to the generators. Up to 15% of the energy used in acceleration is recoverable which extends the vehicle’s range. In a DC electric motor, power is pulsed to the engine at a frequency of 15,000 times a second. This is a frequency not within the range of human ears hence the engine sounds quiet. In an AC electric current, the controller creates three pseudo-sine waves. DC voltage from the controller is taken and pulsed to the motor. The polarity of the voltage is also reversed with the use of transistors (Mom, 2004).
In the past, the biggest challenge to the use of electric vehicles has been presented by the batteries. Lead acid batteries have several inherent disadvantages. First, their weight and bulk is a limiting factor. The batteries also have a limited capacity, while taking a long time to charge. In addition, the batteries have a short life span and are costly to buy. A replacement for them is either the lithium-ion or the nickel-metal hydride or NiMH. These have double the range of lead acid batteries and a longer useful life. However, their cost is prohibitive, and they harm the vehicle in the long term. Electric vehicles require a 12-volt battery such as the one in conventional vehicles. A charging system is also necessary to protect the battery pack from damage during charging and to recharge it as soon as possible (Mom, 2004).
The ever-improving research into the components and technological issues indicates that the future for electric cars is bright. This is coupled with the increased recognition of the cost savings of electric drivetrains as compared to Internal Combustion engine or ICE drivetrains. Another factor that works in their favor is the fact that the vehicles can run on electricity generated from a variety of methods like wind, solar or nuclear. These are available locally and hence would reduce the dependence on foreign oil supply. The extensive electricity distribution network in the USA could also promote the use of electric vehicles (Mom, 2004).
The second area where electricity and magnetism represent the future of transportation is the rail transport network. Of particular interest here is a type of transportation known as Maglev, or Magnetic levitation that is gaining increasing traction the world over, and even more so in areas that have an existing and very well developed rail network. Magnetic levitation is reliant on the use of electromagnets and of magnetic fields. The underlying concept or principle is the repulsion or attraction of magnets on the train, by the train’s track or guide way. This causes the levitation (Sawada, 2000). Maglev technology also employs magnetic propulsion in the acceleration and deceleration of the train. Magnetic levitation is divisible into two main types of suspension. The first of these is Electromagnetic Suspension and the second is Electrodynamics Suspension (Craft, 2004).
The idea of Maglev is not a new one and has been in existence since 1904 when Robert Goddard, an American Rocket scientist first proposed something similar. The determination of motion of Maglev trains uses equations derived from the formulas used in the calculation of electric current. The motion itself, however, is based on magnetism and magnetic fields. High-powered electromagnets are used to create the magnetic field. Through this magnetic field, levitation and forward propulsion of Maglev trains is done. The train has no use for wheels or moving parts. Hence, no contact with the track is made. This allows the Maglev train to have frictionless motion on air. The basis of movement in the Maglev system is electrodynamics propulsion (Craft, 2004). This in turn relies on the basic principle of magnetism that like poles repel each other and unlike poles attract. The Maglev system operates without a motor. Instead, the interaction between the electromagnets and the guide way operates as the motor. The guide way comprises of magnetized coils responsible for levitation and propulsion. A large power source is used to generate an alternating current and this is passed through the guide way. This has the effect of creating an electromagnetic field all the way down the rails. The reason for the use of AC is to change the polarity in the magnetized coils. The alternating current also creates a pull from the magnetic field at the train’s front as well as a push from the magnetic field located behind the train. This push and pull motion combines to allow the train to achieve maximum speeds of up to 300 miles an hour. The current can be quickly turned on and off which would reverse the current in the guidelines, allowing the train to either decelerate or change direction (Sawada, 2000).
Electromagnetic suspension is achieved through having electromagnets at the bottom of the train and having a ferromagnetic guardrail. The electromagnets become attracted to this material on the guardrail when a current goes through. This attraction causes the car to lift off and move in a frictionless manner. A small elevation distance of approximately 10 mm needs to be maintained in order to prevent contact between the guide rail and the train’s rail. Guidance coils on the train’s sides are used to keep the train centered. The other suspension system is the Electrodynamic Suspension System, which uses Superconducting magnets on the train’s bottom to levitate it off the track. These magnets are super cooled; hence the electric conductors can allow better flow of current and create a much more powerful magnetic field. Apart from the initial speed to initiate levitation, no other power source or engine is necessary. However, under the EDS system, wheels are necessary to keep the train moving until it has the speed necessary for levitation (Sawada, 2000).
Some nations such as Japan, Germany and China have already made use of the Maglev system. The system is primed for future growth because it is energy efficient as it uses only electrical energy to keep trains running. Hence, it can cut by half the energy used by a commercial plane and still carry the same number of people. The other reason why the Maglev system is important for the future is emissions. The system, being noiseless reduces noise pollution and air pollution since it does not emit harmful greenhouse gases. Yet another reason is that it can help to clear up congestion and eliminate traffic jams. The system is very fast and hence more people would prefer to use it than to drive their personal vehicles (Craft, 2004).
There is no doubt that greenhouse gas emissions are a great hazard to the planet. Transportation systems are responsible for a large volume of these emissions. Hence, any new methods or systems that are ecologically better must be adopted. This changing global consciousness on matters of pollution is the reason why electricity and magnetism, through these inventions, will continue to be the future of transportation. This is only strengthened by the fact that these technologies come with additional benefits in terms of cost and time savings.
Craft, L. (2004). Maglev. ACCJ Journal, 14-17.
Mom, G. (2004). The electric vehicle: Technology and expectations in the automobile age. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Sawada, K. (2000). Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) Technologies. Japan Railway and Transport Review, 58-76.