Future Mobility

It is a common fact, that the future of individual mobility will tend away from fossil fuels to more sustainable technologies.

But which one can replace the existing technology while being used in the same widespread scale?

Purely electric cars for example have shown to have a worse impact on the environment in respect of toxicity than the scapegoated (Sündenbock) diesel cars. This due to their abundant content of toxic materials and metals who are being “mined” and reused in a very health-hazardous way.
Another competitor is the hydrogen fueled car, which does not suffer from the environmental problems of a battery driven car.

Finding solutions to those significant weaknesses of alternative propelling technologies will be a very important task in the future. We thought this topic is important because our modern world would cease to exist without proper mobility if there is no solution to be found. Therefore we will evaluate the first question of this topic:

Is the electric propulsion capable of replacing the combustion engine on a wide scale?

Counter arguments

The electric car is said to be the future of mobility, but can it replace the petrol car on a wide scale while still keeping a reasonable ecological balance?

The main problem are the cars’ batteries, which produce a great deal of toxic waste which means that the pollution of the environment is simply covered up by putting it off to 3rd world countries. They also do not have a great CO2 balance regarding the energetic effort put into their production.

A more extreme example marks the statement of a Swedish scientist: he claims that an electric car would have to drive for 8 years without causing any emissions (Spare parts, battery change etc.) to be more environmentally friendly than the average diesel car. It is left to mention that this study was only obtained by analyzing existing data and is therefore highly disputed by other scientists.

China as a pioneer in electric mobility

While the western hemisphere is still skeptical about the electric car except Norway, China has already begun to use this technology on a large scale. Not only electric cars but also electric lorries and buses are on the rise and one city called Shenzhen has already fully replaced its diesel propelled public transport fleet with purely electric ones built by the infamous company BYD Auto (Build your dreams).

BYD, the unknown giant and its expansion

BYD auto can be considered as being the biggest manufacturer of electric vehicles on a global scale. Besides not only offering electric cars since 2010, they have also begun selling bigger vehicles as mentioned before. This is also part of an effort to electrify the Chinese street-traffic in order to counter the imminent smog problems which the bigger urban areas of the country have to face. BYD has also already begun to export their vehicles to European cities.

Lessons from the past

Especially London, who already had suffered a smog-disaster in 1952 claiming 10’000 lives and another 6000 in the aftermath of the following months is a remarkable example. This place needs to be especially mentioned due to the interesting fact which claims that besides the heavy use of coal (steam engines and power plants), the dismantlement of the cites electric tram network and replacement by diesel buses in the same year could have been the deciding factor causing this event.

It is to conclude that public transport will become fossil fuel free long before the private individual car. This can be explained by the greater amount of people being moved, which contributes to the higher Eco Efficiency.

red London bus
London bus

Electric buses from china could soon become a common sight on the streets of bigger european metropolis. Source: wikimedia.org

Wie stark belastet die Batterieherstellung die Ökobilanz von Eelektroautos?  (energie-experten.ch)
China und Norwegen fahren bei Elektroautos weiter an der Spitze (nzz.ch)
China-Metropole Shenzhen zeigt die Zukunft der Mobilität (handelszeitung.ch)
Great smog of London (Wikipedia)
President Xi hops aboard BYD zero-emission bus in London (China Daily, chinadaily.com.cn)
Source link of header (i.vimeocdn.com)

Lorry – Lastwagen
To dismantle sth. – etwas abbrechen/demontieren

Electric cars in general


Plain designed motors generate high power
For the same power, modern generation combustion engine motors are a lot more complicated to manufacture than electric motors. The functional principle of the electric motors in comparison to the combustion engine motor is quite easy and can be put together with very few elements.

Long life span and few maintenance work
Another advantage of the electric motor is his long life span and you do not need to do a lot of service that means you also do not have many garage expenses.

Environmental bonus supports new buyers
If you buy or lease an electric car or a Plug-In-Hybrid, you will receive an environmental bonus from the state.

Win back energy
More and more electric cars are able to win back a big part of their energy while braking and let it float back in to the battery. Our trains in Switzerland for example use the same process.

An electric car ejects no exhaust gases; this point is probably the biggest advantage of the electric car, because it means that the e-car does not harms the environment. However, this argumentation only counts if the used electricity is gained from regenerative sources.

Refuel at home
So soon, no trip to the gas station is necessary anymore, because the e-car can be easily charged overnight at the front door. In addition to a low-cost refueling at the own, some outlets also offer free refueling for electric cars during the shopping or the dwell time.

Low tax burden and low insurance premiums
E-car owners do not need to pay

Disadvantages & shortcomings (Mängel)

So far missing infrastructure and long loading times
For the increased use of electrically powered vehicles there are still missing a correspondingly dense network of electric filling stations. These are indispensable, especially in the larger cities, because many people live in multi-store buildings and have no opportunity to recharge their batteries at home. Underground parking spaces should be equipped with appropriate sockets to avoid bottlenecks at the few charging stations.
In addition, the charging times, depending on the battery size and charging technology can be very long. From several hours over the common, plug of the household socket up to less than an hour at a fast charging device. However, this still takes much longer than the refueling process of a conventional internal combustion engine.

Increased risk of accidents with electric cars
The largely lack of noise is very welcomed from the perspective of environmental and consumer advocates. However, it carries an often-underestimated risk for pedestrians and cyclists. These rely, often focusing on the smartphone, on their hearing when, for example, they want to switch to the other side of the street. An electric vehicle that can not be heard can mean danger to life for this people, at least in the transitional phase. Whether new regulations with regard to artificially generated vehicle noise make sense, is discussed in the public controversial.

Electric cars bring high costs in the purchase
The price driver for the electric car is still the battery, where the greatest added value lies. In addition, there are only a few companies worldwide that can provide complete manufacturing with all levels. Many automobile manufacturers do not want to invest in correspondingly expensive production facilities, at least not without a partner. Although Tesla has recognized for itself how important it is to have its own battery production for future electric mobility, they also have Panasonic as their partner on board at their Gigafactory.
However, at the moment, the electric vehicles remain expensive due to the batteries, despite state subsidies. Despite to this subsidy only a few electric cars can exist in the direct total cost comparison compared to the comparable models with internal combustion engine.

Lack of long-term experience in electric mobility
A conventionally operated automobile has achieved a lot over the years. It is known how long, for example, the vehicle usually keeps track of what costs are incurred, who is responsible for the maintenance, which performance is to be expected. With an electric car, on the other hand, there are still many unknowns due to the lack of experience. For example, questions about battery life or the value of a used electric vehicle in five years are important questions shoppers face before purchasing.

Our conclusion to the electric car

The electric car is an important step in the right direction, even if many advantages are currently faced with just as many disadvantages. Intensive research in the field of e-mobility is leading to advanced technology and will change the current balance in favor of the benefits. In particular, the elimination of the emission during operation can be considered as a real progress, especially when the power generation comes increasingly from renewable energy. Whether an electric car is really the only solution for individual mobility is difficult to foresee. Even hydrogen-powered vehicles are pollutant-free at their place of use.

Elektroautos: Vor- und Nachteile (homeandsmart.de)
Vor- und Nachteile (www.mein-elektroauto.com)
Elektroautos: Was sind Vor- und Nachteile? (www.smarter-fahren.de)

The second most favorite alternative competitor is also to be mentioned, its of course the hydrogen driven car.

Hydrogen Fuel

Companies like Shell and Toyota are already working to develop the industry of Hydrogen fuel technology. It isn’t the easiest but hydrogen may well prove to be the tortoise that beats the hare hydrogen. Hydrogen has three primary obstacles that needs to overcome to become a viable energy source for any industry which are: Safety, infrastructure and cost. If hydrogen fuel cells are ever going to make it to public roads the hydrogen needs not only to be safe but to be perceived as safe. Hydrogen has a relatively low ignition temperature and a very wide ignition range for air to fuel mixture percentages.

In our opinion that’s the reason, why many people are afraid to be burnt to a crisp in case of an accident. The fact that it’s pressurized makes explosions more likely to happen.  But it has one massive advantage over oil derived fuels: it’s lighter than air it can be purged using emergency in the event of a fire and if it does ignite it won’t pool around the vehicle engulfing it and its passengers in flames.

But a test by Toyota revealed, that their carbon fiber tank would whitstand being shot at with a gun and the tank didn’t explode, it simply let the lighter than air gas to escape and vent to atmosphere. Therefore modern hydrogen cars are arguably safer than gasoline, so basically safety isn’t a huge concern for hydrogen but the lack of infrastructure is.

We do also think, that the hydrogen cell is much more environmentally friendly and more economic than the batteries used in regular electric cars, since it is also exposed to material attrition (Materialabnutzung).

But how does hydrogen work? It uses a process called electrolysis to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The electrolyzer consists of two metal coated electrodes and a DC power source which provides a negative and positive charge. Hydrogen will appear at the cathode the negative electrode where electrons react with the water form hydrogen and hydroxide ions. These negative ions now present in the water are attracted to the anode or positive electrode where they are oxidized to form oxygen and water.

Hydrogen Energy (renewableenergyworld.com)
Hydrogen Fuel Basics (energy.gov)
Is hydrogen fuel dangerous? (auto.howstuffworks.com)

Our conclusion

Our conclusion after we compared several types of car engines is that the hydrogen car technology will be the future. The reason for this decision lays in their environmentally friendly mean of saving energy, which does not relay on poisonous metals. They have also removed any security problems concerning the high flammability of the fuel. Combining the carbon dioxide-free output of classic electric cars with the longevity of the fossil fuel cars energy storage it presents itself as the most rational solution for the future of mobility.

The interview

But what do the regular people think about this topic? We had invited Mr. Füchslin, an IT-Teacher at our school to answer our questions concerning alternative propulsion technologies.  He has ceased to drive fossil fueled cars since a longer time.

Would you feel safe in a hydrogen car?

Yes. If a technology reaches the market, it can be considered as almost a 100% save.

What do you think of Elon Musk?

He should stick to his core business. That means less twittering and quitting his pompous demeanour – I prefer serious work and an according output.

Would you buy a Tesla again?

No. The service, respectively the garage are operating at their limits since two years (not enough employees, too much fluctuation).

Do you drive it for reasons of environmental consciousness or also because of the brand itself?

I really care for the environment and I also do other things for this purpose’s sake.

When did you switch to alternative propulsion technologies?

It’s been three years ago from now.

Which propulsion technology do you consider to have the most potential for the future?

Hydrogen, ideal storage for (your own) electricity.

When you buy a car, which aspect do you prefer to consider first, the ecological or the economical?

The ecological one is the most important to me.

The future mobility team
Fabio, Livio and Yves

On-topic posts on dontwastemy.energy
Overview of electric cars and personal experience
Formula E Car: How fast can you go?
Zurich city without fuel-powered cars
Electric Car’s Power
Driving an Electric Car
Car Industry – Lies and Problems

☷ See the project teams here »
☵ Some words about the contributions »

4 thoughts on “Future Mobility

  1. That was a long but very interesting article.
    There where some things I already knew about this topic but after your text I know much more.
    In my opinion, electric cars aren‘t the future. When the battery for an electric car gets builded, it is not very ecological and the batterys are also inefficient
    Maybe hydrogen cars are really the future.

    Egally if it will be hydrogen cars or something else, for sure we will have to change something.

  2. I like your article, because it is very informative and you show different aspects of the topic. It is very surprising to see how bad the batterys of electric cars are for the environment. But I have a different opinion in some things. You are saying, that the hydrogen car is the best solution for the environment. But did you calculated also the energy needed to produce the hydrogen and how this energy is produced?

    I support your conclusion that the hydrogen car is the future of mobility. But we have to make a lot of improvements until the car has an infrastructure like petrol powered cars today and it can be used environmental friendly.

  3. Hello together
    Thank you very much for this very detailed and interesting article. We can only agree with your opinion. We also have the opinion that hydrogen will be the fuel of the future, because it is about as expensive as petrol and more environmentally friendly than electric cars, because the production of batteries eliminates a lot of CO2. With hydrogen as fuel there would be no long recharging times, which bothers many people. According to an interview with the car manufacturer Hyundai, they already have a prototype with hydrogen and Hyundai is convinced that this will be the future. The hydrogen engine can be used in all areas, whether it is in public transport or boats.
    Thanks again for this great contribution. We are curious to see how the automotive industry will develop in the future. Because it is clear, that we must find a solution.

  4. Hi guys, I think your article is pretty interesting although quite long for reading…
    However, the question “which car’s technology will be the winner” seems to be crucial. In my opinion the following article by Anthony Patt gets to the point: https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2017/11/elektroautos.html
    Some citations: “Other fuels than electric can’t win the race.
    Using hydrogen as an energy carrier is inherently less efficient than batteries, but arguing in hydrogen’s favour is that it offers the same driving range and refuelling time that we are used to with gasoline. Only a few years ago this argument mattered, but today it does not. New electric cars offer ranges over 400 km, enough for 99% of the trips people make. For the other 1%, there is already a network of fast charging stations at highway rest stops. By the time we could build a network of hydrogen pipelines, or retrofit our gas pipelines, electric cars and infrastructure will have improved even more. It’s a race that hydrogen can’t win.”
    So I am really looking forward to future alternatives and above all – car sharing options. As most cars are not mobile but parked…

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